first Chinese workers arrive in Greenland

The first Chinese workers are coming to Greenland, to work at state-owned Royal Greenland’s fish processing plants on the island (Sermitsiaq). Of the 38 workers the company has employed, seven came to Maniitsoq two weeks ago, and the rest should be coming during June.

China is a big market for Royal Greenland, and the company has worked with Chinese partners for quite some time. A representative office they opened in Qingdao as early as ’98, was upgraded to a foreign-owned limited company two years ago under the name Royal Greenland Seafood (Qingdao) Co., Ltd (皇家格陵兰水产(青岛)有限公司).

The company struggles to recruit enough staff locally for the summer season, and had been trying to bring in Chinese workers for years. Three years ago, I wrote about how local authorities were blocking the company from bringing just 15 employees. The relevant municipalities have now finally got over this immigration conundrum, and everyone is reportedly happy.

According to a Royal Greenland factory head quoted on a company website quoted in the Sermitsiaq article, the Chinese workers are getting along perfectly well with their new colleagues, who “also speak Greenlandic to them, so they may learn the language faster”. Some “can already say a few short words in Greenlandic”, which is a remarkable feat, even if the longer words ccould pose more of a challenge. Greenlandic is massively polysynthetic, featuring (arguably) noun incorporation, a vast array of derivational affixes, and a jillion other interesting aspects.

More significant numbers of Chinese workers can be expected to come to Greenland in the medium term, once a few major mining projects enter production. The most important (and most controversial) such project, the Kuannersuit (Kvanefjeld in Danish) uranium and rare-earth deposit, is one-eighth owned by the state-controlled Shenghe 盛和, through an agreement that contemplates increasing that ownership to a majority stake. Another important project approaching production is the Citronen Fjord (no known Greenlandic name) zinc and lead deposit in the extreme north of the island. China Nonferrous (中色) is expected to help finance and build the mine, and during the construction stage most of the workers would be foreign, most likely Chinese. At 83°N, they would be come the inhabitants of the Earth’s northernmost mine, or settlement of any kind for that matter. An inflow of Chinese workers was once extremely controversial in Greenland, but things have calmed down since.

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should Chinese vessels catch Greenland mackerel?

Industry representatives are criticising the Greenland government’s decision not to allow Chinese vessels to fish in Greenlandic waters. Henrik Leth, chairman of Polar Seafood and Greenland’s business association (Grønlands Erhverv) says it will be “hard” to reach Greenland’s mackerel quota if Chinese ships are excluded. That could eventually lead to the quota being reduced. Officials point at China’s non-participation in the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) as a reason for the exclusion. This year’s mackerel catch is expected (KNR) to be two thirds of the quota.

China is an important customer for Greenlandic seafood. State-owned fishing company Royal Greenland underwent an inspection (Sermitsiaq) from Chinese food safety authorities last month. Royal Greenland have also been trying to bring Chinese workers to process fish in Greenland for some time. Two years ago I wrote about those efforts, which failed due to local government opposition. A few days ago, the company insisted they need “foreign” workers for cod processing plants.

Royal Greenland struggling to bring in Chinese workers

Royal Greenland, a fishing company owned by the Greenlandic government, is having a hard time getting permission to bring in Chinese workers to make up for the lack of local skilled labour. We’re talking rather modest numbers here: while Sermersooq municipality has authorised the company to employ five Chinese produktionsspecialister during the high season in Paamiut, in the south of the island, Qaasuitsup authorities refused or are withholding permission to bring as many as 15 workers to two locations in the North-Western municipality.