NC PORTS 2008—Wilmington works best for Gerdau Ameristeel’s shipments

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOTGerdau Ameristeel, the fourth largest overall steel company and the second largest mini mill steel producer in North America, is a big fan of North Carolina’s Port of Wilmington. One reason is the port is served by a wide assortment of break bulk carriers. Another reason is the North Carolina State Port Authority (NCSPA), which operates the port’s terminals, offers superb services.
That’s why Doug Starosta, Gerdau Ameristeel’s vice president of Import-Export and Rail Logistics Management, exclaims, “The port simply does a good job!”
He should know. Starosta is responsible of logistics for the company’s 21 mills in the United States and Canada
Gerdau Ameristeel, which is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario with executive offices in Tampa, Florida, has the capacity to manufacture over 12 million tons of mill finished steel products annually. It uses the Port of Wilmington primarily for shipments of PC sheet piling that are manufactured at the company’s Petersburg, VA, plant. These are transported to the port by truck and rail.
Shipments leave the port generally, every three months and are transported across the Atlantic to Amsterdam for distribution throughout Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands.
“We try to make the shipments quarterly,” he says.
The loads can vary in size depending on the demand and the availability of the company’s rolling cycle.
“We average 5,000 to 8,000 metric tons a shipment,” Starosta says. “We have been up as high at 10,000 metric tons and as low as 2,000 metric tons.”
Attributing to Starosta’s praise of the port are NCSPA’s two stevedores, who unload the trucks and rail cars at the terminal.
“The stevedores are located on site and both do an extremely good job,” he says. “ They know what our requirements are. If there are any issues, they contact us in advance. Our shipments work like clockwork.”
Key to the effort, the port’s stevedores pay close attention to detail. When the product arrives Wilmington, it is warehoused while additional tonnage of the steel is accumulated for the shipment.
“We cannot ship 11,500 metric tons all at once,“ he explains.
Because of the nature of PC sheet piling, the shipments are stored inside while additional tonnage arrives for the shipment. It takes roughly three weeks for the steel to be accumulated. Meanwhile, storage and handling requirements are worked out with the port.
“They let us know if there are any issues with damage or shortages when they receive one of our shipments,” he says. “We know the problems up front. The PC sheet piling is not loaded for export if there are problems.”
Furthermore, because the PC sheet piling is a break bulk product and some of the material is 22 meters (or about 76 feet) long, it requires special handling.
“We also require special stacking when the material arrives the port,” Starosta adds. “Consequently, the stevedores, steamship line and stowage process are critical to ensure for less damage and problems in the hold itself. This is the value they add.”
The Port of Wilmington is not the only seaport the steel company utilizes. Over the last six months, the company has done business with the Port of New Orleans; Port of Houston; Port of Mobile; Port of Savannah, and the Port of New York/New Jersey at Gloucester City, NJ.
“Of all, Wilmington is the best to deal with,” Starosta emphasizes. “That is not true of all ports. The Virginia Port Authority has not been able to accommodate our break bulk needs.”
One of the reasons is the Port of Virginia is not serviced by break bulk that call on the destinations the steel manufacturer needs to access.
Currently, Amsterdam is the only European seaport to which Gerdau Ameristeel is shipping, despite the fact its exports are up. In the past it had shipped product into Rotterdam, Istanbul and a port in Spain in the past. The low US dollar has given the company an opportunity to increase its exports dramat

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American Journal of Transportation