It has been operating only a few months, but already a log debarker is having a big impact on forestry activity at Port Taranaki.
The debarker began stripping export logs in June, and has helped attract wood from further afield, provided cost savings for the supply chain, had a positive impact on the environment, and created jobs.
“It’s going well,” says Scott Gordon, the southern North Island regional manager for China Forestry Group New Zealand (CFGNZ), which owns the debarker.
“We’re hitting our targets and on good days we’re debarking 1,400 JAS [tonnes] – we aim to strip more than 1,200 JAS a day.”
CFGNZ, a forest products and management company, has leased an area at Port Taranaki for the operation. It is the first on-port debarker in operation in the lower North Island.
Port Taranaki has invested in electricity connections, storm water drainage, and logistic capabilities, while the debarker’s day-to-day operation is being managed by McCarthy Transport.
As part of import requirements in many markets, logs leaving New Zealand must be treated to control insect pests. This is most often done through fumigation, but an alternative is to debark the logs.
Unlike at other ports, logs are not fumigated at Port Taranaki. Therefore, prior to the debarker installation, logs were only able to be loaded into the hold of vessels. The below deck logs were fumigated at sea and the vessel visited another port to load treated or debarked logs above deck.
With a debarker in operation, logs can now also be loaded on the top deck, and the vessel can leave port directly for international markets in Asia, providing cost savings for the supply chain.
These advantages are proving attractive, with more than 45,000 JAS having been put through the debarker and four vessels having been to port for top-deck loading, with a fifth due.
“We’re definitely seeing additional volume coming into Taranaki,” says Scott.
“We’re capturing extra volume from Whanganui – logs that would normally go to Wellington – and from Te Kuiti – wood that would normally go to Tauranga. That’s because we can create better spot prices with top deck cargo going out.
“This creates greater transport efficiencies and there are the huge environmental benefits of chemicals not being required to treat the logs.
“We’ve also got a truck and trailer running basically all day taking the bark to local company Jones Quarry Landscaping Supplies.”
Ports logistics company ISO Limited is also reaping the benefits of the debarker.
The company provides all the marshalling and stevedoring services to CFGNZ. When logs come in to port, ISO tickets, scales, unloads and stores the logs in the yards. It also loads the logs on trailers and transfers them to, and onto, the vessel. ISO is also now moving wood to and from the debarker.
“It’s grown really quickly,” says ISO port operations manager Paul Campbell.
“We’re now running three gangs for CFG, so have doubled our gear on the ground to be able to operate at the debarker, operate at the ship, and manage the cart-in. And we’ve added an extra scaling lane, so we now have three, which helps to prevent queues of trucks waiting to be processed.
“All this has enabled us to employ more staff to cater for the work, which is great,” he says.
Paul says forest managers have commented the debarker is a “game changer”.
“It’s a big cost saving, which goes back to the people supplying the forestry. So they get more return and encourages replanting in the area and potentially pulls more wood from further afield, which is beneficial for the port.
“It’s a win from everybody – the forestry guys, the exporters, the port, and stevedoring and marshalling companies. And it ticks the boxes environmentally.”
Scott says Port Taranaki continues to work with CFGNZ and other exporters to increase on-port storage to meet the increasing demand.
“The outlook for our Port Taranaki operations is strong – I only see it increasing,” he says.