May 1st: Samherji´s 40 years Anniversary

40 years have passed since the trawler Gudsteinn GK 140 sailed into Eyjafjörður. The cousins Kristján Vilhelmsson, Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson and Thorsteinn Vilhelmsson had bought almost all of the shares in Samherji hf. in Grindavík, that owned Gudsteinn and they moved the domicile to Akureyri. Thus began the history of the company, which has since that day prospered and grown into one of the largest seafood companies in Iceland, with operations in fishing, fish processing, fish farming and sale of seafood products.

Gudsteinn was renovated, converted into a freezer trawler and named Akureyrin EA 10. (The history of Akureyrin EA here)

A kitchen table was the first office

Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, CEO of Samherji, says he remembers well the day when Guðsteinn sailed into Eyjafjörður forty years ago.

“We were convinced that Gudsteinn could be a good freezer ship, which turned out to be the case. In the beginning, the office was located on a kitchen table, but today there are around eight hundred employees and the company´s size significant by Icelandic standards. During this time a lot has happened in the seafood business, just like in all industries. We have not been afraid to thread new paths, both in terms of fishing and processing, always keeping in mind improving the quality of the products as well as safety and comfort of the employees. There has been a huge development, for example in technology, and I am proud of the status today.

This Anniversary is bittersweet in my mind, Samherji has lost men and that leaves its mark on this forty years journey. Fishing has been and still is a dangerous job, those who go to sea and their loved ones work hard.

Fortunately, great progress has been made in terms of improved facilities for fishermen, we place great emphasis on safety, health and occupational health and safety issues and we want to be leaders in that regard, both at sea and on land.

I've been blessed to work with talented people from all over and with different backgrounds, to do things better every day, primacy united as a team. Some projects have not worked out, but others have been successful and useful. Today we are working on various projects, such as the development of fish farming on land.

The generational change that has taken place in the company gives me faith and the future is bright," says Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson.

Samherji a leading company in the seafood industry

Kristján Vilhelmsson, managing director of Samherji's Ships Operations, agrees with Thorsteinn Már, May 1, 1983 is fresh in his mind.

"The weather was good and a lot of people watched the ship sail into the harbour. The economic situation was difficult at that time and quite understandable many people strongly warned us not to go into the fishing business, as the industry was, so to speak, in ruins. But we believed in ourselves and many people were ready to jump onboard with us. The seafood industry has changed a lot in these decades, just like other industries.

The fleet of Samherji and Útgerðarfélag Akureyringa has been in constant development and is today powerful and well-equipped in every way, and the same can be said about the processing plants. The advanced technology in the plants in Akureyri and Dalvík is a result of a development cooperation between Samherji and the companies that produce the equipment. In many cases, these are specialized solutions based on innovation and entrepreneurship, which we Icelanders can be proud of. This also applies to the ships that the company has built in recent years.

I am both optimistic and grateful and look forward to tackling future projects with the good people who work in the company."

Always unafraid to innovate

Engineer Heimir Tómasson has worked at Samherji for almost forty years, he will soon retire. Heimir has therefore closely followed the operations of Samherji since the beginning.

"I worked at Útgerðarfélag Akureyringa when the cousins ​​bought Gudsteinn. Soon Kristján Vilhelmsson's co-workers and I at the ÚA workshop started renovating the trawler. I worked in Akureyrin in the summers of 1984 and 1985 and the following year I was permanently employed. Later I switched to Baldvin Thorsteinsson EA 10, but for the last two decades I have been ashore and carried out various tasks in connection with the ships. The cooperation with the cousins has always been very good, the company is known for treating its staff well, which high numbers in years of service of many employees show. It's been a good time and I leave Samherji in good spirits, even though the keys won't be returned right away. I am optimistic about the future and I say without hesitation that Samherji is a leading company in many areas."