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Arctic Umiaq Line A/S is a shipping company that carries passengers along the west coast of Greenland.
The company’s passenger ship Sarfaq Ittuk sails from Qaqortoq in the south to Ilulissat in the north, calling in at every town as well as at a couple of larger settlements on its routes up and down the coast.
Beginning in the south, the ship calls in at Qaqortoq, Arsuk, Paamiut, Qeqertarsuatsiaat, Nuuk, Maniitsoq, Kangaamiut, Sisimiut, Aasiaat and Ilulissat. Here, the ship turns around and on its way south calls in at Aasiaat, Sisimiut, Kangaamiut, Maniitsoq, Nuuk, Qeqertarsuatsiaat, Paamiut, Arsuk, Narsaq and Qaqortoq. A voyage from Qaqortoq to Ilulissat takes more than three days.
The name Umiaq means women’s boat and this was a traditional Inuit means of transport, consisting of a wooden frame covered with sealskin. These vessels were used both for transportation and for hunting and were used on e.g. whale hunts in most of the Inuit territories from Alaska to Greenland. On journeys, the umiaq was rowed by women.
Sarfaq means current and Ittuk is the word for a rushing sound. Hence the ship’s name Sarfaq Ittuk can be translated into rushing current, which is a suitable synonym for the monotonous sound of the engines in harmony with the rushing of the water beneath the ship. It is a sleep-inducing sound when you are lying down, but easy to drown out when you prefer to talk.
The ship was built in 1992 and was refurbished and extended in 1999/2000. It is 73 metres long and 11 metres wide. It can carry a total of 249 passengers and a crew of 22.
Arctic Umiaq Line isowned by Royal Arctic Line A/S and Air Greenland A/S. Before the partitioning of what used to be the Home Rule’s trading company, KNI, it was the Royal Greenland Trading Company (KHG, 1774-1985) that undertook ferry services in Greenland. In its heyday KGH or “Handlen” as it was also known, was an omnipresent giant with a monopoly on transport, trading and retail business all over Greenland.
In addition to the ferry services along the coast, Arctic Umiaq Line is also responsible for settlement shipping in Mid-west Greenland. Thus you can sail with AUL’s boats between Sisimiut and the settlements of Itilleq and Sarfannguit, between Maniitsoq and the settlements of Napasoq, Atammik and Kangaamiut, and also between Nuuk and the stttlements Kapisillit and Qeqertarsuatsiaat.
Each year, about 20,000 passengers travel with Arctic Umiaq Line’s passenger ship and boats. About 2,000 of them are tourists.
Greenland’s government provides an operating deficit guarantee of between DKK 5-10 million each year for Arctic Umiaq Line’s services in Greenland.