Industry and infrastructure

Fishing and ports

All ports and places of call in the municipality are owned and run by the Government of Greenland. These facilities play an important role in the Greenlandic society, just as the primary trades, e.g. fishing and tourism as well as transport of goods, depend on them. While the ports differ greatly in size and facilities, there are three main types: Ports with Atlantic traffic, ports with feeder traffic and ports with settlement traffic.

The ports and the shipping traffic constitute an important link in the transport of goods globally as well as internally in Greenland. Royal Arctic Line A/S offers both goods transport services. While goods transported from Greenland mainly consists of fishery products, goods transported into the country consists of consumer goods and materials for the building and construction industry. Since 2009, the volume of goods has fallen considerably as a result of the global economic crisis

Fishing – particularly of shrimps, Greenland halibut and crabs – continues to be the main trade and of critical significance for the Greenland economy. This is true for Avannaata Kommunia, which geographically covers the greater part of the West Greenland coastline and is the home of the majority of the fishing industry's factories and purchase facilities. However, the falling world market prices have put a strain on the fishing industry, leading to an increase in fished volumes and a general structural change, e.g., in the affiliated industrial facilities. The largest operator, Royal Greenland, has carried out a centralisation, merging and closing production sites and trading facilities. Today, Royal Greenland has five factories and seven purchase facilities in the municipality. The changes in the fishing industry and the general recession since 2000 are clearly reflected in the population and the employment rates in the settlements where a large number of trading facilities have closed.

In future, it will take large investments in the fishing industry in order to be able to withstand the increasing global competition and the impact of the climate changes in the Greenland Sea. Investments are needed to regularly update the fishing vessel fleet, but very much to establish more and better ports including more trading facilities.

Last but not least, the ports play an important role in passenger transport and cruise tourism. The sailing activities vary according to the season, depending on the ice conditions, but peak in the summer half-year. The main operators in the passenger traffic sector are Arctic Umiaq Line, Disko Line and Royal Arctic Bygdeservice, which all operate in Avannaata Kommunia. Climatic changes and increased investment in tourism, however, impose new requirements for the weather conditions, so that both larger and larger ships - for example modern cruise ships - can dock, cf. the section on "Tourism", which in the future is a focus area that will help to promote cruise ship tourism in the municipality.

In addition, Naalakkersuisut (The Greenland Government) has designated port authority areas, which must also be incorporated into the planning work of Avannaata Kommunia.

Air traffic

Air traffic is a key element in Greenland's infrastructure, providing day-to-day transport of goods and passengers. The location of airports, heliports and helistops in Avannaata Kommunia is shown on the main structure chart. The facilities are owned and run by Greenland Airports. Typically, the largest airports are situated in the towns whereas most settlements have a heliport or a helistop. Only Uummannaq has no airport as this is situated by the settlement of Qaarsut at the Nuussuaq peninsula, approximately 25 km northwest of Uummannaq. All areas zoned for air transport are covered by regulated zones regarding safety, line of sight, obstacle clearance surfaces etc. Regulated zones are binding as regards land use, height restriction and thus also future urban development.

The upcoming upgrade to international airport in Ilulissat has for many years been high on the local wish list and is seen as a decisive factor in the future development of Avannaata Kommunia, as well as having a great positive impact on tourism in the neighbouring municipality, Kommune Qeqertalik. The upcoming Atlantic Airport in Ilulissat will increase tourism and settlement, creating new business opportunities and thus increasing tax revenues. The town plan thus allows for an extension of the current airport area from 1800 meters to 2200 meters.

A development of aviation infrastructure generally forms an important part of plans to exploit the potential of the municipality's town - not least to promote tourism along the North West Greenland coast.

Extractive industries

Development opportunities in the raw materials industry include both hydrocarbon and mineral resources, with a large number of exploration activities under way. There have only been actual mining activities in regard to minerals and only to a limited extent. In regard to oil and gas, the activities have so far been limited to exploration and preliminary investigations west of the Disko island and in Baffin Bay.

A relatively new industry is the production of water either from springs or by loss from floating icebergs. The water is used for the production of drinking water in bottles, beer, ice cubes, etc. In the municipality of Qeqertalik there are, among other things, a production site in Qeqertarsuaq.


Generally speaking, Avannaata Kommunia has great tourism potential – probably the best in Greenland. Thus, tourism is a key factor in securing an economically sustainable basis for existence in the many towns and settlements in the municipality and for future investments in northwest Greenland. Ilulissat and the Disko Bay areas will continue to be the tourism centres in the region as the starting points for a number of arctic adventures and attractions, e.g. dog sledding, cruises, whale watching, aurora borealis and guided visits to the settlements.

There is great potential for further development, but this is closely linked to the supply, such as the location and the quality of airports and ports, accommodation etc. The same goes for the development of offshore-related industries, e.g. distribution and processing of raw materials, as well to the recruitment of labour. The town plan comprises a large number of unutilised area allotments that could constitute the necessary basis for a future development of the tourism industry.

One of the biggest changes in the planning period is the new and larger airport in Ilulissat, which goes from being the sole domestic airport to being able to handle large international aircraft. A change that will have a big positive impact on tourism for the entire Avannaata Kommunia, as well as for the neighbouring Kommune Qeqertalik with easier accessibility to, among other things, Disco Island and Aasiaat.

Improved conditions for cruise ships and their ability to reach Ilulissat will also be a focus area during the planning period, as a large part of tourism depends on the availability of cruise ships around the ports of the municipality.

In addition, with the new Icefjord Centre, further focus will be on promoting and burning the Icefjord as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it more attractive for tourists to experience nature and our cultural heritage.

Climate changes might result in easier access to areas in the open country and navigation to some of the ports for a larger part of the year. As a result, there is a growing interest in building holiday cottages and similar tourist facilities on attractive locations along the coast, e.g. in Disko Bay where the town plan zones new hut and holiday cottage areas – see the section "The open country".

Finally, the town plan defines a number of sledge tracks, paths and hiking trails to support the tourism industry. The intention is to extend and develop the network of paths and hiking trails in the open country and to secure the sledge tracks.

Sledge dogs play an important role in the tourism development. Thus, most towns and settlements have unbuilt areas to be used as dog tethering places – or even ‘dog islands’. In the future, securing the existing places will be given priority just as some of the places are to be extended. In the next planning period, common municipal dogs and cats by-laws will be prepared and transposed into the town plan to reflect the areas needed.

Other industries

Apart from fishing-related facilities and plants, the many areas for industry and port in the municipality are to hold a number of other industries, e.g. skilled trade and service trades, storage, transport and production. In the small towns and settlements, these areas are located along the coast, while in the larger towns, industrial areas are located inside the urban area. To reduce noise and enhance security, distance requirements often apply to tank farms and stores in industry and port areas.

The overall available space for industrial area is approximately 480 ha throughout the towns and settlements in the municipality, which is estimated to be sufficient to cover the land requirement within the 12-year time frame of the town plan. Consequently, the town plan does not allow for new industrial area allotments.

Road system

The municipality's road network lies exclusively in the towns and villages and comprises a network of primary roads, secondary roads, local roads and other private roads, as well as tracks and paths in the settlements.

The intention is to extend the road system in step with the overall urban development including new residential and industrial areas and especially ports, airports and heliports – the backbone of the Greenland infrastructure. Over time, climate changes might present opportunities for building roads between some of the closest located towns and settlements in the municipality, thus promoting the mobility of the citizens. The Government of Greenland is responsible for investments in major road systems.

The municipality's road network lies exclusively in the towns and villages and comprises a network of primary roads, secondary roads, local roads and other private roads, as well as tracks and paths in the settlements.

With the new municipal plan, the road structure in the municipality has been reviewed, with a special focus area updating road structure and road construction lines. This means upward as well as downgrading of a number of roads in Kommune Qeqertalik. Some roads are downgraded to create space for parking, while others are upgraded to improve accessibility. In addition, it must be ensured that the tracks in towns and settlements are kept free and of good quality.

Pedestrian conditions and Shared Space are also of great interest and a focus area in the planning period until 2030. Pavements and paths are constructed along the roads and the path system is expanded to improve pedestrian accessibility and create a good connection internally in the towns.

The existing road system and any projected roads are shown on the main structure chart of the towns and settlements.