A huge cargo crane lifted a 28-foot speedboat from a nest of surrounding shipping containers Tuesday afternoon and placed it gently onto a trailer parked at the International Marine Terminal in Portland.

The boat was one of up to 60 Finnish-built Axopar vessels that will be imported to the U.S. in the next two years by East Coast Yacht Sales, many through the bustling Port of Portland.

The crane at the International Marine Terminal in Portland lifts a Finnish-built speedboat onto a trailer Tuesday. East Coast Yacht Sales in Yarmouth will expand to handle sales of the speedboats, including opening an office in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Yarmouth company has spent the past year working on a deal to be the exclusive Axopar retailer on the East Coast from Maine to Maryland. That’s a connection partially made possible because of shipping links between Portland and Europe from Eimskip, the Icelandic shipping firm.

The deal will mean expansion for the yacht dealer, including a new office in Annapolis, Maryland, said owner Jon Knowles.

“We have been working on this for quite a while,” Knowles said. “Our territory is going to be much larger to represent this company. It is pretty exciting.”

The company has offices in Camden, Belfast, Yarmouth, Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and Stonington, Connecticut.

East Coast Yachts will sell 24-foot, 28-foot and 37-foot versions of the outboard Axopar design. The uniquely designed boats are built to run fast and smooth through choppy water, and versions equipped with cabins can stay on the water up to eight months of the year, which makes them ideal for the Northeast coast, said Rob Geaghan, a broker with the company.

Prices range from $90,000 to $250,000 – “very affordable” compared with other boats, Geaghan said. He expects a lot of demand for Axopar boats, based on their price point, versatility and simple maintenance.

“It is a little edgy, not your traditional Maine boat,” Knowles said.

East Coast Yachts has experience importing vessels for the U.S. market. The company brought Singapore- and Malaysia-built boats up to 55 feet long through Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, for more than 30 years, but the deal with Axopar is on a different scale, Knowles said.

“These were bigger boats,” he said. “We would bring in six, eight, nine boats a year for 34 years – this is a whole different ballgame.”

Shipping volume at the International Marine Terminal has more than doubled in five years and Eimskip now calls on Portland once a week. Strengthening shipping bonds between Maine and Europe helped East Coast Yacht sales secure the deal with Axopar, Knowles said. It takes about 17 days to get the boats from Germany to the Portland docks.

“The boats go on Eimskip from Germany to Iceland, then transport to Portland,” Knowles said. “It is very cost-effective for us. We are amazed at how cost-effective it is.”

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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