Jón & Margeir drives for gold
Jón & Margeir drive for gold
The day slowly turns to night as the three gold-painted Volvo vehicles roll through the barren lava fields towards the fishing industry in Grindavik on south-western Iceland.The lorries are filled with fish from the east coast, and the vehicles from Jón & Margeir have driven 600 km during the day through the scenical Djupivogur on the east coast to the home harbour in the west.
Good transport logistic solutions are undoubtedly necessary to be able to supply Americans, Icelanders and other Europeans with fresh fish the next day. Everything has to go right when it comes to freshly caught fish, otherwise it won’t be fresh when it reaches the customer, and if the haulage firm fails with the logistics, it will probably have transported its last catch.
“We drive empty vehicles to the loading place the day before and sleep in the vehicles. We then load the trailers early in the morning before driving back to the fishing industry in Grindavik,” explains the driver Gunnar Jónsson, Jón’s middle son and Margeir’s grandson. In November 1970, Margeir Jonsson acquired his first lorry. Since then, the firm has grown steadily, especially after his son Jón entered the picture. “I still like driving the crane lorry and have had twelve crane lorries over the years. It’s my thing,” says Margeir shyly as he and his wife Gudlang meet up with the haulage firm’s incoming lorries in the harbour. Historically, Iceland has been strongly dependent on the fishing industry. Fish and fish products are still an important source of income for Icelanders, alongside tourism, which has actually overtaken fishing industry in the past year. Many fishing industries are located in Grindavik, which has its own harbour and is not far from the international airport in Keflavik. Most of the town’s 3000 inhabitants work in the fishing industry, and for those who want to transport fish by road within the country, the location is perfect.
“We have grown steadily since Dad and I formed the company in 1992. We work for the same companies year in year out and have plenty of work. On Iceland, we don’t need to worry about anyone coming from neighbouring countries and taking our jobs, which gives us security,” says Jón. The fish lorries’ journey from Grindavik to Djupivogur and back is about 1200 km. Sometimes, a few of the haulage firms’ vehicles drive the whole Ring Road, Route 1, which runs all the way round the island and is 1339 km long. It goes through varied and fantastic landscape with the coldest glaciers and the hottest volcanoes. Iceland is definitely an island of contrasts.
“We transport fish from the whole country to the industry in Grindavik, where we also have our base. From there, we transport the fresh fish to the airport in Keflavik or frozen to the harbour in Reykjavik. It can also go direct from our lorries to ships in Grindavik harbour.” Jón & Margeir have more than seven Ekeri refrigerated trailers for transporting of fish. “We transport mostly fish, but as well as seven fish lorries we have another seven vehicles, including the two crane lorries,” says Jón. Most of them are Volvos, but there are also two from Scania. “I prefer Volvo, but both brands are good. When we replace the two oldest ones this autumn, it will therefore be one of each,” says a smiling Jón, who is the person with most control in the family firm. Father and son usually agree. One exception, however, was when Jón wanted to change the colour of the vehicles from white with red details to gold with black details. “I had to give in, but now I think it’s good,” admits Margeir.
The assignments that Margeir and the haulage firm’s other crane lorries have are usually for the fishing industry. “In addition to lifting fishing equipment, we recently got an assignment to move small cottages. They are built in a factory in Great Britain and arrive here by ship. They are usually cottages for tourists to hire,” explains Margeir. For example, a holiday village is going to be built on the slope down towards the water not far from the garage in Grindavik. Jón & Margeir are involved in the ground work as well as the house transport. “Grindavik is located close to the airport in Keflavik and even closer to the tourist magnet the Blue Lagoon. This means that the demand for alternative accommodation is continuing to grow,” explains Jón regarding the many house transports.
The growing tourism industry combined with the financial crisis in 2008 when all building came to a halt has meant that the Icelanders are now building infrastructure, houses and hotels flat out. In 2016, the island was visited by 1.8 million tourists. That is more than five times as many people as the 300,000 who live here. Up until the year 2000, 75% of Iceland’s exports came from the fishing industry. Now, the two industries each account for a third of the country’s income. This is followed by exports of aluminium products and silicon iron, as well as biotechnology and software. “Our company also sees an opportunity for expansion thanks to tourism, and we have bought four diggers of different sizes,” says Jón who likes to see opportunities and finds it difficult to stop developing. It simply spurs us on to develop the company and watch it grow. “I could be satisfied now, but I don’t see any limits. It’s fun when things go well, and they are right now. We have lots of work for all the divisions,” says ‘the gold-digger’ Jón Margeirsson. He proudly shows off the certification from Framúrskarandin Fyriræki (roughly translated as ‘outstanding company’), which shows that in 2016, it was one of the 629 (1.7% of the companies on the island) strongest/highest credit-rated companies on Iceland. One common problem on Iceland is finding the right persons with the right competence for vacancies. Many contractors have had difficulties finding drivers and machine operators. “So far, we haven’t had any problems with that,” says Jón, whose company has fourteen drivers, two machine operators and an office employee on the payroll.
In the coffee room, Margeir and Gudlang are serving birthday coffee and cake. There’s enough for everyone who comes by, and there are many, despite it being the eve of a holiday.The summer holidays have started and Jón has just returned to Grindavik after a weekend out in the caravan together with his youngest son. Ex-wife Linda who runs Grindavik’s only clothes shop is on location and acts as an occasional interpreter. The premises were acquired 15 years ago and include a workshop, staff areas and offices. Next to the door, a large wash hall is going to be built on the concrete base that is currently used to wash the lorries. “On an evening like this, we don’t need any walls, but I can assure you that it’s nice to be indoors when the winter is here. The cold can be quite piercing down here in the harbour,” says Gunnar who has just washed his golden Ekeri nugget, as the sun sets on the horizon for a few short hours. The summer nights are light on this legendary island, and it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re enjoying yourself.
Original text By Maria Jansson Sjödin (text and photo)