Herjolfur, the ferry between the Westman Islands and mainland Iceland, can no longer sail to the brand new, specially constructed Landeyjahofn Harbour, according to the boat’s captain. The harbour is too shallow due to accretion of sand and volcanic ash.
During the last trip of the day on Sunday, Herjoldur grounded on the soft bottom on the way into the harbour and on the way back out again.
The early sailing yesterday was postponed for an unspecified time – possibly several days. Shipping company Eimskip, the Roads and Transport Administration and the Maritime Administration are holding meetings to discuss the problem. Their temporary solution is to create a new sailing schedule to bring the ferry in and out of Landeyjahofn at high tide only. They are also sending a sand dredging boat from Reykjavik.
Landeyjahofn was specially constructed for the Westman Islands ferry and cuts the sailing time from three-and-a-half hours down to just 40 minutes. But there was resistance to the expensive project at every stage, with some warning that local weather patterns will make the harbour unsuitable in strong winds and that sand movement will make regular dredging necessary.
In the event, the movement of sand into the harbour has been even faster than expected. The new port only opened on 20th July this year.
The old port at Thorlakshofn was intended to act as a reserve port for Herjolfur in heavy weather; but no agreement has yet been made with harbour authorities there, meaning Herjolfur cannot sail into Thorlakshofn yet. The sand dredging ship which deepened the new harbour is currently far away in the Westfjords.