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Dredging Difficulties Disappointing

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Dredging Difficulties Disappointing

Herjólfur ferry.

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

When a large Luxembourg-registered dredger arrived in South Iceland last week, hopes were raised on the Westman Islands—but it has since run into difficulties which are hampering its work.

The Taccola is 90 meters long and is run by a Belgian/Luxembourg company which specializes in tactical dredging around the world, including a recent million-ton project on the Suez Canal.

The plan in Iceland was for the Taccola to remove around 300,000 tons of sand from Landeyjahöfn harbor and hopefully keep it open to the Westman Islands ferry all year round.

Over the last week, however, the Taccola has repeatedly needed to wait offshore due to waves being too high and Vísir reports the vessel cannot cope with waves much bigger than the smaller dredgers previously used at Landeyjahöfn.

At 90 meters, the dredger is longer than the Herjólfur ferry the harbor was built to service. Taccola cannot, therefore, work inside the manmade harbor and has to pump sand aboard through long tubes from outside the harbor entrance.

There were no natural harbors along the entire south coast of Iceland and Herjólfur used to dock in the southwestern town of Þorlákshöfn before Landeyjahöfn opened in 2010—shortening the journey from two-and-three-quarter hours to just 35 minutes.

However, many voices in the scientific community questioned the logic of building the harbor; believing that tide and currents would continually fill it with sand, making dredging a near-constant chore, and that prevailing high winds in its exposed location would make docking difficult and lead to canceled trips.

Today the ferry still regularly docks at Þorlákshöfn but takes advantage of the much shorter crossing time whenever conditions allow. A bus service connects the two mainland ports, ensuring that passengers are not left stranded without their cars.

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