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Maine’s North Atlantic Opportunities Boost Trade

Find out how Maine is strengthening its position as a leader in North Atlantic trade and as the U.S. gateway to the fabled Northwest Passage to the Arctic Ocean.

By Bill Lewis on September 25, 2015

As sea ice melts and creates new shipping lanes, Maine is strengthening its position as a leader in North Atlantic trade and as the U.S. gateway to the fabled Northwest Passage to the Arctic Ocean.
The state’s efforts are creating new international trade opportunities for Maine businesses specializing in advanced materials, aquaculture, food processing, energy production and pharmaceuticals.
Icelandic steamship company Eimskip moved its U.S. hub from Virginia to Portland in 2013, and plans are underway to build an incubator on the Portland waterfront that will help Maine businesses develop and commercialize maritime products and services that have export potential.
Ocean Solutions, an Icelandic firm with technology that converts waste from fish processing plants for use in other products, is just one of the prospective tenants for this proposed New England Ocean Cluster incubator.
Plunging Shipping Costs for Businesses
“With Eimskip’s arrival, Maine is now a competitive logistical partner for shipping throughout the North Atlantic,” says Dana Eidsness, director of the Maine North Atlantic Development Office. “From a freight-cost perspective, a business can now ship from Portland to southern Norway for about the same cost as moving product by truck from Portland to Delaware. This represents tremendous opportunities for new market development.”
The expansion of Portland’s shipping container terminal also creates opportunities.
“Instead of seeing our state as the end of the line for logistics activity in the northeastern U.S., we can now say that Maine is a niche U.S. hub for container service to markets throughout the North Atlantic – through an area that stretches from Newfoundland and Labrador to Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Norway all the way up to the northwest coast of Russia,” Eidsness says.
Maine’s strategic location in the North Atlantic is already attracting foreign direct investments from European companies such as Norwegian stove and fireplace manufacturer Jotul, which is expanding its flagship U.S. manufacturing plant in Gorham.
Jotul is doubling its manufacturing capacity in Gorham from 50 stoves per day to 100, creating eight new jobs, says Bret Watson, president and CEO of Jotul North America.
Reaching New Markets
The New England Ocean Cluster innovation hub and incubator would include spaces for approximately 35 companies and expects full occupancy in 2017, says Patrick Arnold, CEO of Soli DG, which is heading up the proposal.
With new access to high-paying overseas markets and resources in the North Atlantic, business development and job growth are limited only by the creativity of business leaders in Maine, Arnold says.
“The New England Ocean Cluster is an opportunity to enhance that creativity, streamlining collaboration with our Scandinavian partners and advancing spinoff and startup development to capitalize on tech transfer from Scandinavia and to develop new companies here in Maine,” he says.
The incubator holds opportunities for growing companies specializing in food processing, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and biotechnology as well as enterprises for fisherman, boat builders and marine tech companies, Arnold says.
Trade opportunities in the North Atlantic and beyond are also growing for aquaculture businesses, says Paul Anderson, director of the Aquaculture Research Institute.
“It’s entirely possible for Maine’s aquaculture production to at least double in the next 10 years, and I would not be surprised if it’s even higher than that,” says Anderson, who places the industry’s current value at $120 million.
Acadia Harvest, a Maine startup developing land-based aquafarm technology to breed marine species like yellowtail and black sea bass, is one firm eager to tap into these new opportunities.
“Our focus is on domestic supply, and we have distributors lined up in Maine, Boston and San Francisco,” says CEO Ed Robinson. “We have had interest from Toronto and London, so exports are definitely a possibility.”
With melting ice in the Northern Sea Route expected to open up the Northwest Passage, Maine may soon have access to new routes for commerce.
“Maine’s ports are competitively located to support the throughput of increased trade that Arctic change will bring,” Eidsness says.

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