Icelandic company ships U.S. goods overseas

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Eimskip has been sailing to the U.S. for 100 years. Photo courtesy Eimskip

Eimskip, an Icelandic shipping company, is celebrating its 30th year in Virginia as well as its 100th anniversary of sailing to the U.S.

Its ships began arriving at U.S. ports in 1915 during World War I. They mainly brought fish to North America and, on the way back to Iceland, took supplies to Allied powers, such as Great Britain.

The U.S. did not enter the war until 1917. Nonetheless, its neutrality in the first 2½ years of the conflict did not prevent it from being an important supplier to the countries fighting Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.

“The U.S. military often escorted the ships from North America to Europe to prevent attacks from German U-boats, which made great efforts to stop this supply chain,” says Gylfi Gylfason, Eimskip USA’s director of marketing and business development.

Eimskip USA employs 14 workers at its 30,000-square-foot office and warehouse in Virginia Beach. Its services include freight forwarding, drayage (transporting goods over a short distance), truck brokerage, customs brokerage, inventory management and transloads (moving freight from truck to container, or vice versa, for import and export). 

One of Eimskip’s main customers is ShopUSA, an Icelandic e-commerce company. Eimskip’s Virginia warehouse has handled the company’s logistical arrangements since 2003. “ShopUSA was started to help consumers around the world purchase products from U.S. online retailers,” Gylfason says.

Eimskip ships nearly 40,000 packages annually for ShopUSA to customers in Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and India. ShopUSA franchises in those countries handle customer service and marketing. “That would be very costly for U.S. retailers to get involved with [these arrangements] — not mentioning the language barriers, time-zone differences and lack of export knowledge,” says Gylfason.

In Virginia Beach, Eimskip receives ShopUSA customers’ packages, stores them in inventory, repacks and consolidates them and arranges delivery. “In order to save on shipping costs, Eimskip arranges shipments via air once a week and via ocean every other week to the franchise countries,” Gylfason says.

Products most frequently shipped include apparel, car parts, and health and beauty products. “We have shipped everything from a car manual to a Ralph Lauren T-shirt,” Gylfason says.

ShopUSA plans to offer direct international shipping to more than 220 countries by the end of the year. In delivering goods around the world, it will work with UPS, FedEx and DHL. Eimskip will arrange the logistics. “This is a great step for U.S. businesses that want to expand their sales and explore new international markets in the process,” Gylfason says.

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