PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine International Trade Center on Friday announced the creation of a new office to focus state efforts on boosting international trade opportunities in the North Atlantic region for Maine businesses.

The Maine North Atlantic Development Office will be housed in the trade center’s Portland office and build on the momentum created in February when Icelandic shipping company Eimskip chose Portland as its North American headquarters, according to a news release. Eimskip’s container shipping service is the first direct connection Maine has had with Europe since 1980.

The new trade center office is also expected to coordinate trade missions to Iceland and Northern Europe next year.

“We are shipping more diverse products in and out of Maine than ever before and this is primarily due to the arrival of Eimskip and commitment it has made here,” Janine Cary, the trade center’s president, said in a statement. “We see this as a key opportunity to grow Maine’s economy through exports and imports, as well as developing Maine as a distribution hub for both Icelandic and Northern European goods.”

Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday spoke at a transportation conference about the trade opportunities for Maine created by the opening of the Northeast Passage, which provides a shipping route from the U.S. East Coast to Asia that’s 40 percent shorter than the traditional route through the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal.

Icelandic President Olafur Grimsson, speaking in Portland this May, also cited the partnership between Eimskip and Portland, plus the opening of the Northeast Passage, as a potential boon for Maine and his country.

More Icelandic officials are expected in Portland on Friday afternoon. Iceland’s ambassador to the United States, Gudmundur Stefansson, and its trade commissioner for North America, Hlynur Gudjonsson, are scheduled to participate in a roundtable event at the Maine International Trade Center’s Portland office and to meet with state officials, including George Gervais, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, and David Bernhardt, commissioner of the Department of Transportation.

On Friday evening, Eimskip is hosting its annual Christmas Charity Event at the Ocean Gateway Terminal on Portland’s waterfront. Scheduled to speak on small business export opportunities is Jeanne Hulit, Maine native and acting administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.