Eskja Ltd., formerly named Hraðfrystihús Eskifjarðar, was established in May 8, 1944 in order to strengthen the homogeneous business of the town. Founders of the company were somewhat over two hundred individuals and businesses locally. The first managing director was Leifur Björnsson. Construction began of a freezer house soon after establishment and was processing until 1947. The startup year the company-received raw materials from boats that practiced mainly long line fishing from May in the spring and autumn. But went south during main fishing season during the winter. Considerable quantity of raw materials was also processed from small boats during the summer.
In the late fifties, Eskja hf. operations had some difficulties, therefore two parties came with new capital into the company in 1960, the brothers Aðalsteinn Jónsson and Kristinn Jónsson, acquiring 2/3 of the shares in the company, and taking over its management. Ingólfur Hallgrímsson who had been managing director since 1949, retired. Aðalsteinn Jónsson became CEO and Kristinn became president. During Aðalstein´s time as CEO great development took place in the company. With ambition and hard work, he turned an almost bankrupt company owning only a fish processing plant in Eskifjörður, into one of the largest and most advanced fishing companies in the country. Aðalsteinn was previously CEO until new year of 2000/2001 a total of 40 years without a doubt are most prosperous in the history Eskifjörður where Aðalsteinn played an important role. Elfar Aðalsteinsson replaced Aðalsteinn as CEO, prior he was managing director of Fiskimiða hf.
ESTABLISHING A FLEET
In 1959 the company acquired its first ship Hólmanes, a 130 ton steel boat built in Norway, made out for long-line and nets, as well as fishing herring. During 1962-1970 the company acquired several ship of size 150-260 tons that were made out for long-line and nets, herring and trawling. In 1970, the ships were sold and instead bought stern trawler from France, which was named Hólmatindur, and was one of the first 2 stern trawlers in the country. In 1980 larger vessels named the same replaced him. In 1972 the company entered into partnership with Kaupfélag Héraðsbúa regarding a purchase of other stern trawler made in Spain. A special corporation was founded for its operations, named Holm hf. The ship arrived in early 1974, and was named Hólmanes. Each company got half of the ship catch for processing, but Eskja hf. managed its operations. This company was split up in 1996 and merged with the operation of Eskja hf.
FISHMEAL AND FISH OIL PROCESS BEGINS
In 1952 a fishmeal factory for fish waste started operation, it was equipped for processing herring on a small scale. On the late sixth decade herring fishing increased considerably in the north and east, and in 1963 the factory was expanded and renovated for herring processing, and remained a major element of company´s operation. The year 1966 a new high performance works of the new port at the bottom fjord. The factory has since been factory was built and performance increased, occurring first from 1977-1978 and then from 1994-1995. Air-drying was then implemented for fishmeal and immediately eliminated most of the pollution from the plant. Colonies were 6 tanks for the storage of fishmeal. All manufacturing from the plant now is high-quality fishmeal that is used for fish farming. Its performance is 1,100 tons per day.
1967-1968 herring disappeared from Iceland´s seas, but soon thereafter began capelin processing. With increased fishing it was necessary to expand the fleet in order to require more raw material. In 1978 the company bought 780 ton ship named Jon Kjartansson SU-111. In 1982 the company acquired another ship, 360 tons, and was renamed Guðrún Þorkelsdóttir SU-211. Then the fleet expanded further when Hólmaborg SU-11 was purchased.
During 1997-1999 vessels were rebuilt and expanded in Poland installing larger machines in the ships Jón Kjartansson and Hólmaborg with potent pelagic equipment necessary for catching of blue whiting, which has greatly increased in recent years. These species along with capelin are the main fishing basis for these vessels.
NEW ERA – NEW FOCUS
In 1988 Shellfish processing was initiated in housing purchased from Jón Kjartansson hf. Its operation was successful and shrimp fishing areas out of east Iceland turned out more prosperous than previously believed. A new state of the art factory was built in order to meet costumer’s demands and to increase efficiency. Operations began in May 1999 at Strandgötu 14. Operation of the factory was ended by the turn of the year 2002/2003 due to products price collapsing and oversupply in international markets.
As the company grew and its activity increased, it was considered necessary to establish facilities to service the vessels and other units of the company. In 1964 a workshop was established, and later electric- and auto garage. These units were then sold in 2001 and 2002, to other parties who continued these activities and to provide service to Eskja hf.
In 1997 operations of bottom trawl station began in the new housing at Hafnargata 5. The operation of the net repairing station, which had served trawler fisheries for decades, merged with the bottom trawl station. In 2005 Eskja sold the operation of the station to Egersund Trål A/S and the company has built up on the basis of old trawl station, the most advanced station in the country that serves Eskja ships and other vessels of the pelagic fleet.
In 1986 the company moved to its new office at Strandgata 39, designed by Ingimundur Sveinsson architect, but for many years the office facilities was sort of disorganized.
In 1998, the Company acquired all shares in Triton hf., which had whitefish and shrimp ship Gest SU. The ship is now called Votaberg SU-10. Triton hf. merged fully with Eskja hf. in the beginning of 2000.
In the beginning of 2002 all shares were purchased from the fishing company Vísir in Sandgerði. The ship of the company was sold and the entire quota of about 550 cod equivalent went to Eskja in the merger.
In 2002 Eskja hf acquired 47.48% of shares in Tangi hf, from Vopnafjörður he was sold as soon as they had completed the acquisition of all the shares in the Hópi ehf. and Strýthóli ehf. in Grindavík. With the acquisition Eskja hf acquired significant cod quota.
In 2003 at the Annual General Meeting it was agreed to change the name of the company, from the freezing plant Hraðfrystihús Eskifjarðar hf in Eskja hf. This was done to meet the need of an international name to use in dealing with foreign clients and to increase opportunities of the company to sell its products under its own brand.
In the beginning of 2003 it was decided to sell another stern trawler of the company, Hólmatind and close the operation of the shrimp processing. It was closed in end of January 2003 and subsequently the vessels Votaberg and Guðrún Þórkelsdóttir were grounded due to lack of quotas for these ships. These properties, along with the stern trawler Hólmanes were later acquired by the shrimp company Íshaf in Húsavík but Eskja received in return a rather new stern trawler Ask that was named Hólmatindur. Íshaf hf. was abolished in 2005.
In 2004 Hólmi hf., a new company owned by Elfar Aðalsteinsson, Kristinn Aðalsteinsson and the couple Björk Aðalsteinsdóttir and Þorsteinn Kristjánsson successor of Aðalsteinn Jónsson, bought all shares of Eskja hf., and consequently, the company was taken from the stock market.
At the end of 2004 Elfar Aðalsteinsson resign as CEO of Eskja and subsequently Kristinn, Þorsteinn and Björk, along with the investment company Bleiksá hf, bought Elfar´s share in the company. After this Eskja hf and Hólmi hf merged. Haukur Björnsson became the manager of Eskja in the continuation of this encounter.
In the beginning of 2006 Eskja hf, bought a multi fishing purpose vessel with freezing equipment on board. The ship was named Aðalsteinn Jónsson SU 11. It was built in Norway 2001 a 70 meters long and 1700 gross tons. This ship is equipped for fish processing and can sea freeze capelin, blue whiting and herring as well as fish for meal and oil processing in land.
In 2007 the couple Björk Aðalsteinsdóttir and Þorsteinn Kristjánsson bought the shares from Kristinn Aðalsteinsson in Eskja hf.
In early 2007 Eskja operated freezing, and capelin factories and the stern trawler Hólmatindur with the pelagic trawlers Aðalsteinn Jónsson and Jón Kjartansson along with running an office. Other parties bought all other service departments of the company.
Following severe renal of the white fish quota in 2007 it was clear that the accrual white fish freezing was no longer available despite repeated rationalization and reorganization. Therefore, it was decided to stop the operation of the freezing operation of Eskja hf as of November 2007.
The stern trawler Hólmatindur was subsequently sold in November 2007. Therefore white fish fishing was ended for the moment.
In September 2010, Eskja re-launched whitefish processing in Hafnarfjörður and also operates the long line ship Hafdís SU 220 that provides the factory with raw materials. Raw materials are purchased as well from the market. Whitefish Eskja process fresh fish and sells to the most demanding market areas in Europe.
Management of Eskja decided in 2012 to electrify the fishmeal factory also to undertake improvements on the factory premises, construct chimney, scrubbers and new staff facilities. Work was completed in June 2013 and now the factory runs only on electricity. This change has been a significant step in the sustainable development, with a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy, eliminating fossil fuels.