Port handles increasing lumber loads



OLYMPIA, WA-- Two log ships headed for Japan were docked at the Port of Olympia pier on Monday, a sight that has become more common since the Tacoma load center closed at the end of last year.
The Emachu sailed Monday night, carrying 2 million board feet of timber. The Okuyama is scheduled to leave later this week with 3 million board feet.

The two vessels will add $60,000 in gross revenue -- from moorage and other fees -- to the port's bottom line.

Logs are flowing through the marine terminal in a volume that hasn't been seen since the early 1990s, when timber was the primary cargo there.

"Having two vessels in is definitely great news for us," said Nick Handy, port executive director. "We're trying to create the load-center effect."

Pacific Lumber & Shipping, Merrill & Ring and Formark -- all tenants at the terminal -- had wood on at least one of the ships, said John Wolfe, terminal manager.

The ships supplied daily jobs for 35 to 40 dock workers since late last week, Wolfe said.

Pacific Lumber, the largest of the three shippers, has leased space from the port for more than five years. The company took over Plum Creek Timber Co.'s contractual obligation after Plum Creek pulled out Jan. 1. Pacific Lumber now must export at least 18.5 million board feet of logs yearly.

Since Tacoma closed its log load center, Olympia and Longview have become two of the main gateways for timber exports in Washington, Wolfe said.

Log shipments through the port have increased, even though the Japanese market is weak, Handy said. Olympia has essentially been gaining market share, he added. Although Japan's log imports have been in a prolonged slump, it's unlikely that demand for U.S. wood will dry up, Wolfe said.

As the Japanese market regains its health, the port could see a sizable boost in yearly exports, Wolfe said.

"I think, from talking to people in the industry, the hope is we've bottomed out," he said.


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