The longtime executive in charge of U.S. operations for the Icelandic cargo shipping firm Eimskip has resigned.

Larus Isfeld worked for Eimskip for nine years and led its relocation to Portland and expansion in the city.

“It was my goal from the first day we started to get Eimskip to weekly port calls for the first time since Eimskip started sailing to the U.S. over 100 years ago,” Isfeld said in an email Monday. “We have now accomplished this goal two years ahead of schedule. It’s time for Eimskip to scale its business in the U.S. and it’s a good time for me to step away.”

Isfeld said he intends to stay in Portland and work on “ambitious projects.” He did not respond when asked what new work he is considering, but Isfeld is connected to the New England Ocean Cluster, a marine business incubator that plans to open a co-working space on the Portland waterfront in early 2019, according to its website.

Andrew Haines, vice president of marketing and sales, will be interim managing director of Eimskip’s U.S. operations, the company said in a written statement.

“Eimskip is grateful for the exemplary work and leadership Mr. Isfeld has provided for nearly a decade,” said CEO Gylfi Sigfusson, “We have benefited greatly from the constant push Larus has provided us to continue growing our United States offerings.”

Before 2013, Eimskip was headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, and shipped to Boston. But when military work dried up in Virginia, the company re-formed its business and moved its North American headquarters to Portland, establishing a direct container link between Maine and Europe for the first time in more than 30 years. The company took advantage of public investments in the International Marine Terminal, which had only sporadic container service before a different shipping company pulled out in 2012.

Now, an Eimskip ship calls in Portland every week, and the volume and value of goods have more than doubled since its first year of operations. The number of container cargo units grew from roughly 7,200 to more than 17,500 in 2017, and the value of imported and exported goods grew at the same pace, to nearly $503 million last year, according to data from the Maine International Trade Center.

“Having been in Boston for more than 50 years and Virginia Beach for over 26 years, the move to Portland was a very entrepreneurial and disruptive change for Eimskip to go through” Sigfusson said. “It took the right entrepreneurial vision and persistence to carry us through this transformation.”

Isfeld’s departure won’t affect Eimskip’s plan to scale up its operations and bring in larger ships, said Haines, the interim director. The company will have office space in a new building under construction at the International Marine Terminal and plans to hire new employees.

“Our vision is to have bigger, faster ships and increase the size of our operations in Portland and streamline port operations,” Haines said.

“Iceland is committed to this; we have seen very good growth since 2013,” he said. “I have been given what I need to strengthen the organization up here and take this to the next level.”

Portland is on Eimskip’s green line, which also stops in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Argentia, Newfoundland; and Reykjavik, Iceland. From there, Eimskip has direct connections to northern Europe and the United Kingdom. The company also offers transshipment to Asian ports via Halifax through a partnership with French container ship company CMA CGM.

The bustling container yard that passers-by see today underneath the Casco Bay Bridge is a far cry from the desolate space 10 years ago at the International Marine Terminal, said Jon Nass, deputy commissioner at Maine Department of Transportation and chairman of the board of the Maine Port Authority.

Isfeld’s “entrepreneurial spirit was a major factor for the success we have had at the terminal,” Nass said.

“Starting a shipping operation from almost nothing or moving it from hundreds of miles away is no small feat,” he said. “The growth is very much here, and we look forward to continuing to work with Eimskip as a company.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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