Random newspaper articles about Prince Rupert

Southern Chinese sawmill thrives on steady flow of B.C. logs

Short shipping time makes local lumber exports attractive

By Gordon Hamilton, Vancouver Sun November 25, 2009
They sit in massive piles on a concrete pad tens of hectares in size, covered by blue tarps. A small sign in Chinese and English warns: “Fumigation. Dangerous. Keep Away.”

Maybe that explains why not a soul has been seen while we view pile after pile of B.C. logs in this southern Chinese coastal port, where timber from around the Pacific Rim is fumigated for potentially troublesome bugs.

The logs are here because this is a new state-of-the-art sawmill – constructed and financed by Chinese investors who view Putian as an emerging hub for processing North American timber.

The city of Putian, in the southern province of Fujian, is one of the few places where timber can be fumigated in such a manner. The Canadian government won’t permit it to be done in B.C.

But Putian is not caught up in the whirl of development that has catapulted China into global economic prominence. It is a backwater, and the people do whatever they can to bring logs – and the prosperity that lumber brings with it – into their lives.

It has been that way for years, ever since the fishing catch failed around the time of the Cultural Revolution.

Fujian province is not rich in resources. The railway doesn’t even come here. The people of Putian turned to logs because there was little else, so they have turned their city into a timber processing centre.

Now, the new port with its orange container cranes towering over the blue-tarped log piles, and the new sawmill, described as the most modern in all of China, is not only transforming Putian but is also reaching across the Pacific and into the forests of British Columbia.

The owners of the new mill want to feed it on a diet of B.C.logs.

“When this mill is fully operating it will produce 600,000 cubic metres a year of lumber,” said Jinliang Wu, a powerful business and political leader in Putian who is chairman of Putian Standard Wood Products.

His goal is to import a million cubic metres of logs a year from B.C.

Standard has invested $50 million in the sawmill complex. At its heart is a $15-million German-designed production line that on this day is feeding evenly sized B.C. hemlock logs into a de-barker and spitting them out onto a line where they are sliced efficiently into lumber by high-speed blades. The blades are so thin, they leave a very fine dust that drifts in the air, rather than coarse chips of sawdust. Three technicians operate it from a control room overlooking the automated line. The entire operation requires no more than 15 people per shift.

Along with 100 other employees working in a variety of wood processing jobs at the industrial site, they live in a modern dormitory complex within sight of the mill. The company pays for their room and board, providing a communal kitchen and cafeteria.

“For the workers, their whole life is the job,” said international business manager Michael Chen. “They are very loyal and obedient. Their attitude is that they will get the job done.”

Gerry Van Leeuwen, vice-president at the consulting group International Wood Markets Group, said in an interview in Vancouver that the mill is one of the most modern he has seen in China.

"It’s not a huge mill, but by Chinese standards its big. I’ve never seen a mill that big in China. Sawmills in China are typically very small, very primitive. Often just one bandsaw to cut the log, which might be on a carriage or they might be pushing it by hand. And maybe, there might be one resaw just to edge, to make them square-edged boards. But that’s all. And they might have five or six guys to do that, and they are all making only $100 a month.

“This is totally different. This is … the second time I have seen European sawmill technology in China, and the other one wasn’t running very well.”

Wu has plans to invest up to $150 million in the industrial site, adding another mill and more wood processing plants.

The mill started running only last July and is still ramping up to full productivity. In the first quarter of 2010, Wu plans to import 300,000 cubic metres of B.C. logs. Because of time restrictions imposed by a Canada-China agreement, after April he must either import more expensive de-barked B.C. logs or buy from competitors in Alaska.

“This sawmill is all about North America, and the port here is specially located to import from North America. It is not mostly North America – it is entirely North America,” Wu said through an interpreter over servings of traditional Chinese tea.

Wu is seeking B.C. logs because it takes two months to ship Russian logs, which are more common in China, by sea.

But it takes only 15 days for logs to be shipped from Prince Rupert to Putian, where they are fumigated in the new port facility.

“If you use Google Earth you will see that Putian is the farthest point in China to get Russian logs. Russian logs normally come to China through the railway, and the railway doesn’t even reach Putian yet. That is the reason there are no Russian logs in Putian.”

Wu said he has had meetings with B.C. Forests Minister Pat Bell over increasing log exports to Putian.

“He agrees with me that the North American market is shrinking. The future of the North American market is not good. So for B.C. logs and B.C. lumber, there needs to be another way: To find a way to get into China.”

The B.C. connection goes even deeper than logs. Some of Wu’s Chinese competitors who are watching the Putian experiment from distant cities in China, say they believe the mill can only survive if it is export-based. It is located too far away from major Chinese markets and will require sales to Japan, also a B.C. market, to make it viable, they say.

Wu agrees the mill will need to export. He had scheduled a meeting with potential Japanese buyers immediately following his interview with The Vancouver Sun.

In a later interview, Bell said B.C. can compete effectively with new mills in China processing B.C. logs because total shipping costs favour this province. He also said there is a role for log exports on the Coast until there is sufficient manufacturing capacity.

He said his primary focus is lumber but if buyers want logs, he directs them to groups that have surplus logs, such as companies like Coast Tsimshian Resources, a northwestern B.C. company that is currently exporting logs to Putian.

Owned by the Lax Kw’alaams first nation, Coast Tsimshian has a forest licence to harvest 550,000 cubic metres of timber a year but there is no sawmill in the region to process the wood. It can export 35 per cent of the logs harvested through a provincial Order-in-Council.

“We simply say [to log buyers like Wu] that we are happy to have you go and do that but we are not going to actively go out and pursue that business,” Bell said. “I am not going to get in the way of people who are pursuing logs but I am certainly not going to actively pursue it myself.”

But he indicated he passively supports exports.

“Let’s keep in mind that for every job in a mill, there are about two to two and a half jobs in the bush,” Bell said. “Right now if you were to exclude the opportunity for Coast Tsimshian to export those logs, you would be eliminating the two and a half jobs that exist today and not creating a single job in a mill.”

vancouversun.com/Southern+Ch … story.html

Does Canada need a world-class autobahn? Transportation expert Wendell Cox investigates the issue in a new study, Creating A World Class Highway System for the Nation.

Cox would like to see a series of roads built to pre-motorway standards (pre-motorway standards means highways with two completely separated lanes in each direction, with some grade crossings and ramps that would have left turning traffic turn right first to access an intersecting roadway).

These routes would connect cities such as Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg to the U.S. Interstate system.

Cox also suggested bringing the Yellowhead route to pre-motorway standards. This road currently links Prince Rupert, Canada’s second largest ocean port, with Edmonton, Saskatoon and Portage la Prairie.

An estimate for the construction of these routes is roughly $33.5 billion.

Full article at canada.com/travel/time+come+ … story.html

Haida chiefs, Campbell expected to make big announcement today

By Suzanne Fournier, The ProvinceDecember 11, 2009
Haida hereditary chiefs and leaders will join Premier Gordon Campbell in a major announcement this morning, hard on the heels of Thursday’s protocol inked with the Coastal First Nations.

George Abbott, minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, advised the media to “come back here in 23 hours” for yet another development, giving new hope to the Liberals’ flagging “new relationship” with First Nations.

The deal is believed to involve a $10-million government commitment to assist the Haida Nation in forestry, alternative energy, tourism and conservation.

Guujaw, president of the Haida Nation, noted that the Haida have an undisputed aboriginal title, recognized by Canada’s top court, after 9,000 years of occupation of the island archipelago off Prince Rupert, and that any new agreements

" may recognize side-by-side title [with government] but we will never cede our title to our land."

© Copyright © The Province

Province approves huge wind-farm sites

By Jack Keating, The ProvinceDecember 13, 2009
Two private energy companies have been granted permission from the province to build two major wind farms that could eventually produce enough electricity for 230,000 homes.

One of the projects, to be built by Vancouver-based NaiKun Wind Development, will be Canada’s first offshore wind-energy site, located east of Haida Gwaii in Hecate Strait.

“The project will play an important role in helping the province reach its goal of becoming electricity self-sufficient by 2016, while also providing major economic benefits to B.C.'s north-coast communities,” said Paul Taylor, NaiKun Wind’s president and CEO.

With a capacity of 396 megawatts, the project could produce enough electricity annually for about 130,000 homes.

It will also include an underwater cable and overland transmission line connecting to B.C. Hydro’s grid on Ridley Island near Prince Rupert, and HaidaLink, a marine cable and infrastructure supplying electricity to Graham Island near Tlell.

Thunder Mountain Wind Limited Partnership of Sidney will build the second project, which will produce up to 320 megawatts of electricity and could produce enough electricity annually for about 100,000 homes.

The $1-billion project, sited about 45 kilometres southeast of Tumbler Ridge, will consist of 160 wind-turbine generators, five substations, a 65-km transmission line, and maintenance roads.

Thunder Mountain hopes to start construction in 2010. NaiKun would start between 2012 and 2014.


Aricle in Edmonton Journal about how MP Rona Ambrose plans to promote Prince Rupert and Vancouver container ports.

"The promotion of Edmonton-Spruce Grove MP Rona Ambrose to Minister of Public Works is good for the region, the president of the Spruce Grove Chamber of Commerce says.

“We are pretty excited for her, definitely,” Norm Shaw.

“For the most part, she has been very accessible for all the constituents and we feel she has done a really good job that way. In the business community, she has been very supportive even as Minister of Labour. We are hoping with this new portfolio that she is still accessible to us, and that she can be just as effective for the community.”

Ambrose was one of 12 MPs shuffled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She replaces Quebecer Christian Paradis, who was made the Minister of Natural Resources. Ambrose’s new portfolio was also hailed as good news by the City of Edmonton’s general manager of transportation, Bob Boutilier, who said there are advantages of having a local MP in a high-profile position. “We spend a lot of time talking to bureaucrats and politicians who don’t live here and don’t know what the hell we are talking about. She knows it and that makes it so much easier to get things done,” he said.

His department has been in discussions with Ambrose’s office about funding for LRT expansion and the Asian-Pacific Trade initiative for at least two years. “Basically, we want the container trade from Asia to go through Vancouver and Prince Rupert, and come to Edmonton for redistribution across North America. That requires a lot of infrastructure changes in Edmonton,” he said.

Canadian Pacific is already looking at an improved rail yard south of the city, and the International Airport wants to expand its air cargo facility.

The city’s northwest is home to many trucking companies and holding yards. “I think from that perspective, having someone local at that level and in that particularly portfolio, I couldn’t ask for a better day,” Boutilier".


© Copyright © The Edmonton Journal
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