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Container shipping route adds Maine's biggest city

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- An Icelandic shipping company has agreed to establish container freight operations in Portland in a move that will link Maine's largest city to eastern Canada and Europe and restore the port's on-again, off-again cargo shipping service.

Eimskip, or the Icelandic Steamship Co., signed a contract with the Maine Port Authority to have a container cargo ship stop in Portland every 14 days, providing Maine businesses import and export opportunities to and from Canada and Europe, Gov. Paul LePage announced Tuesday. As part of the arrangement, Eimskip is partnering with Pan Am Railways to offer cost-competitive rail access to North American markets.

Eimskip said Portland will replace Norfolk, Va., as a port of call on its cargo route at the end of March. The goal is to shorten the transit time between North America and Europe.

"Maine's economy will be strengthened by this new service and accessibility to markets," LePage said in a statement. "Maine produces some of the best products in the world and this investment by Eimskip is a testament to that quality."

Officials with Eimskip, the state and the city planned to hold a news conference Wednesday to provide more details about the service.

Eimskip said Portland is well-positioned to handle its operations with its International Marine Terminal, which is equipped with a 100-ton mobile crane and electrical outlets for refrigerated cargo containers. The company plans to operate a warehouse and office in Portland.

Portland has been without container cargo service since last spring, when a New York-based company ended service that linked Portland, Boston and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In a press release announcing the new service in Portland, Eimskip said it has 49 offices in 17 countries and operates 17 vessels.