EFLA's Breakout Sessions at the Arctic Circle Assembly


two men delivering a speech at an Arctic circle conference, with five individuals seated behind them

EFLA Consulting Engineers are a sponsor and active participants of the Arctic Circle and have been with the assembly from its beginnings. EFLA organized two breakout sessions as well as hosting guests at our offices.


The Arctic Circle Assembly, which was held from 10th-12th of October, has been held annually since 2012 and brings together 2000 participants from 60 countries and with a wide variety of backgrounds. The Assembly provides a forum in which to discuss the present and the future of the Arctic Region and is a platform for the strengthening of scientific, political, sociological and ecological cooperation. Over 200 sessions took place at the assembly and EFLA in cooperation with its partners organized two breakout sessions, one to discuss the current developments and the future of the Finnafjord Port Project, but the other was regarding planning and capacity assessment when it comes top of the tourism industry.

Finnafjord Port Project

On the Thursday, EFLA organized a breakout session in collaboration with German port developers, bremenports where the subject matter at hand was the current state of development and future of the international transhipment, industrial and service port in Finnafjord. Four speakers gave a brief talk about their involvement in the project before they sat down for a plenary session where written questions submitted by the audience were answered, and a fruitful discussion formed.

Hafsteinn Helgason from EFLA spoke to the benefits of Greenfield projects such as building up a port in Finnafjord, especially in terms of control of the process from the very beginning, for example selecting sustainable and environmentally friendly partners and operators in the area using the latest technology.

Robert Howe, managing director at Bremenports, discussed the environmental policies of the company with regards to the development and construction of green ports.

Auðunn Kristinsson, director of maritime operations at the Icelandic Coast Guard, discussed how the role of the agency is evolving and the importance of having a good and safe harbour facilities with powerful towing operations.

Elías Pétursson, head of the municipal council of Langanesbyggð, spoke on behalf of the municipalities closest to Finnafjord and how the progression of this project could benefit the area and its residents in terms of a diversification of employment opportunities.

Capacity Planning for the Tourism Sector

On the Saturday, EFLA organized a breakout session in collaboration with the Icelandic Tourism Research Centre, where capacity planning for tourism in the Arctic, balancing economic, social and environmental priorities was discussed. Representatives from the tourism sector in Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Maine and Iceland gave talks on tourism in their respective areas.

Julia Pars, managing director at Visit Greenland, gave an overview of the country's intentions for the infrastructure developments sorely needed due to a foreseeable increasing trend of tourism to the country.

Høgni Reistrup came from the Faroe Islands to introduce the unconventional and successful social media marketing campaign that his country has embarked upon to attract visitors.

Tracy Michaud, a professor at the Universities of Southern Maine and Reykjavík respectively, discussed how the tourism sector in the state of Maine has been built up over the last 200 years, but the state annually welcomes around 37 million tourists.

Finally, Ólafur Árnason, from EFLA Consulting Engineers, discussed the development of the sector in Iceland, but tourists have in less than a decade increased from being 500.000 to around 2.3 million. Alongside the rapid growth in the number of foreign visitors in recent years, discussions on the utilisation of infrastructure and the burden put on nature have become more prominent. In 2017, the Ministry of Industries and Innovation decided to undertake an evaluation assessment of the strain on infrastructure, the environment and society, in relation to the number of tourists.

This led to the ambitious project of mapping visits to Iceland, including the use of primary infrastructure, such as airports, ports and road systems, housing for accommodation, restaurants and services, destinations and recreational activities, both within densely populated areas and in Iceland's countryside.

At the end of the talks, panel discussions took place where the speakers were joined by a representative from the Icelandic Tourism Research Centre, Óskar Jóhannesson, as well as Ray Salter, a consultant from TRC Tourism and the former office manager of the New Zealand Ministry of Tourism.

Infrastructure in a World of Extreme Weather

Strategic partners of the Arctic Circle had the opportunity to invite guests to a reception at their company in order to shed light on the efforts the company is making when it come to various Arctic issues. EFLA took part in a tour scheduled on the Sunday, to discuss infrastructure projects in extreme Arctic conditions, including weather and logistics.

Hafsteinn Helgason from EFLA gave the guests several examples of projects where engineers from EFLA have to adjust normal procedure of design and construction in projects in the Arctic region and how we have had to overcome complications and obstacles in these conditions.

A discussion was had about the importance of including engineers with experience in projects in the Arctic from an early stage, for example in terms of infrastructure development in Greenland for increased tourism or mining operations and even for future projects created through the melting of the Arctic and thus, the opening up of new sea routes. The guests who visited EFLA were very interested in the topics at hand and had some constructive discussions with EFLA‘s employees during the visit.