Published September 1, 2014
The beleagured Faroese fishing vessel that ordinary Icelanders assisted despite the cold shoulder from government has bid our fair shores farewell.
As reported, the ship was sailing from Greenland when it encountered engine trouble and radioed Iceland for permission to dock in Reykjavík harbour to conduct repairs. However, citing an obscure law about fishing rights, Icelandic authorities initially only allowed permission for the ship to dock – the crew would not be allowed to disembark, and they would receive no other assistance.
This prompted a Facebook group, “Faroese: We Apologise”, to raise money and donations to offer the ship’s crew, who were indeed provided with food and drink from those involved with the group.
“They received complete service in the end, and left happy and satisfied,” Harbour Master Gísli Gíslason told reporters, adding that the matter has not ended there. “We sent a letter to the Ministers of the Interior, Fisheries and Foreign Affairs about this, with the request for an explanation over a couple details.”
Minister of Fisheries Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson’s explanation for the snub, he told reporters, was based on an international agreement – or rather, the Faroese having an agreement with Norway and the EU over mackerel, but not Iceland.
“The Faroese have an agreement with the Norwegians and the EU about mackerel fishing,” the Minister explained. “The agreement means in practice that we cannot receive certain kinds of service from the Faroese, and the same of course applies to the Faroese regarding us while we’re outside this agreement. There is no dispute between our countries; it’s just the way it is.”
Last March, the mackerel deal reached between the Faroe Islands, Norway and the EU – without the involvement of Iceland – was not taken lightly by Icelandic officials. Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson told reporters at the time:
“We have been wondering what kind of secretive talks have been going on whilst we thought we were talking part in honourable and positive discussions with the European Union and the Faeroes. It seems to be that another kind of agreement was being worked on behind the scenes, and that it has come to light now.”
Sigurður Ingi joined the chorus of protest at the time, and accused the EU of “going back on their word” from informal talks between Iceland and the EU last autumn.