PNW log exports up on China demand

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Maritime  International Trade  

By Leo Quigley, AJOTChina’s demand for raw logs has injected new life into lumber-dependent communities in the Pacific Northwest. The demand is the result of a tax placed on log exports by Moscow and initiatives by the lumber industry and government to introduce wood as a building material to China’s construction industry.
Of the PNW ports AJOT talked to that are loading logs for export, Grays Harbor has probably been impacted mos. Overall the port experienced record cargo shipments last year. With the return of logs in addition to dry bulk agri-products such as distillers dried grain and soymeal export volumes were over one million tonnes, representing an increase in tonnage of 85 percent. As well, auto builders once again favored the port and Grays Harbor came in third last year for the number of vehicles exported from the West Coast.
“We have logs going to China and Korea,” said Leonard Barnes, Manager of Business & Trade Development. “Five years ago we had 19 vessels (in total) and in 2010 we had 106 vessels. Also, five years ago we handled 276,000 tonnes of cargo. In 2010 we handled 1.5 million tonnes of cargo and 21,000 autos.”
“It’s really amazing,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.”
“Log truck drivers, foresters and others also benefited from the return of log exports to Grays Harbor,” port management said in its year-end report. And, hundreds of construction jobs were created by road, rail and dock improvements and construction of new facilities by shippers.”
At the Port of Olympia in Washington State’s capital city business has also been booming this year with the addition of raw logs.
Jim Amador, Marine Terminal Director, said 2010 was a “great year” for the port. “And, we’re seeing a continuation of that going into this year.”
Amador also said industry sources have told him that the log business is likely to last for a good three to five years.
“We were at about 110 million board feet of export logs (last year),” he said. “And we haven’t seen volumes like that since the late ‘80s and ‘90s.” In 2009 volumes of export logs we roughly 71 million board feet.
The major suppliers of logs to the port were Weyerhaeuser and Pacific Lumber & Shipping, Amador said.
Port of Tacoma
Logs have been a traditional part of the cargo mix at the Port of Tacoma for years. However, when the port bought back its 25-acre log staging/wood chip facility on Blair Waterway from Weyerhaeuser in the spring of 2006 to accommodate an expansion of its container handling business, logs became little more than a fond memory.
This didn’t last long however, with the growing appetite for raw wood by China logs have once again gained an important place on the list of exports, so much so that last year nearly 70 million board feed of logs were exported. And large, ocean-going ships loaded with logs have once again become a common sight at the port.
Larry St. Clair, Director of Intermodal Marketing for the port, told AJOT that 2011 is starting out very strong. “We moved almost 20 million board feet in January alone,” he said.
“We’re expecting a banner year.”
Log exports from the port are being shipped primarily to China and Japan, with some going to South Korea, he said.
“We were fortunate that when Weyerhaeuser moved out they left their debarker and some of the countries we’re sending logs to require that the bark be removed. And, this debarker has been the lynch pin of the (log) business here at the port.” he said.
“We have leased half of the facility to one lessee and half to another lessee and they, in turn, have appointed their log handlers and those log handlers take care of the debarking and the moving of the logs within the yard. They’re then brought to dockside and at that point the ILWU takes over to move the logs from dockside onto the vessel,” he said.
Now that log exports have once again become part of Tacoma’s traffic mix they hope to continue with the business for another few years, St. Clair said.
“There’s some speculation in th

Leo Quigley's avatar

American Journal of Transportation