Relocation of Weyerhaeuser's log export operation from Tacoma to Olympia, Washington, yields 'significant savings,' says spokesman, company ships 100 mmbf/year to Asian sawmills

LOS ANGELES , October 4, 2011 () – Since Weyerhaeuser Co. rerouted its log-export business from Tacoma, Washington, to Olympia, Washington in 2008, the company has gained “significant savings” in road transport costs for its increasing shipments of logs to China, Japan and South Korea, The Olympian reported Oct. 1.

Federal Way, Washington-based Weyerhaeuser moves about 100 million board ft. (mmbf) of logs a year through Olympia, averaging about 1,200 truckloads to fill a ship. So far in 2011, 20 vessels have come for log shipments.

The company moves the logs from its tree farms in Rainier, Aberdeen and Pe Ell, all in Washington. Weyerhaeuser formerly shipped its export logs 40 miles from Rainier to the Port of Tacoma, but the shorter drive of 18 miles from Rainier to the Port of Olympia promised “significant savings,” said Brad Kitselman, marketing director for the company's Western timberlands.

About 25% of the ships picking up logs take them to China, which uses them to manufacture concrete forms, or to South Korea, which uses them for packaging, including pallets and crates. The rest of the logs and the best quality are shipped to Japan for post-and-beam home construction.

Japan's largest sawmill operator, Chugoku Mokuzai, is Weyerhaeuser's largest overseas customer. At its mill east of Tokyo, it processes 200 mmbf a year and uses 100% of each log, said Kitselman.

Weyerhaeuser does not expect business to climb significantly with a post-earthquake building boom, Kitselman said, as Japan is looking to rebuild infrastructure first.

Chinese demand continues to rise, particularly since Russia boosted log-export tariffs in 2008. Total log exports from the Pacific Northwest to China grew 270% from 2009 to 2010. In the first quarter of 2011, Weyerhaeuser's log sales to China rose 6% over the same period a year earlier, bringing its log sales to China to 24% of its overseas log sales.

The primary source of this article is The Olympian, Olympia, Washington, on Oct. 1, 2011.

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