Logistec's lumber importing plan at Maine port gets resistance from rival company

SAN FRANCISCO , January 27, 2006 () – Canadian company Logistec has won the opportunity to bring European timber through Portland's International Marine Terminal in Maine, despite opposition from rival company Sprague Energy.

The Associated Press reports that Portland agreed to delay the deal with Logistec to consider Sprague's objections, but finally went ahead and approved it, reasoning that the city did not want to give Sprague a monopoly. Sprague already owns Merrill's Marine Terminal at Portland.

Logistec, which provides cargo handling services on the east coasts of the U.S. and Canada, says it's in the final stages of making a decision about opening up a Portland operation to import lumber from northern Europe for the New England market; and export Maine-made pulp and paper.

But Sprague Energy, based in Portsmouth, N.H., also wants to import lumber from Europe via the International Marine Terminal. Sprague says Logistec's operation will occupy waterfront space it needs and hinder its plans to build a forest-products cargo center there.

According to Sprague, its planned operation will be larger than Logistec's and provide more jobs and money for the city. Managing director for materials handling, Bruce Atkins, said Logistec's operation would be a direct competitor for his company, and added that the city would better off waiting for Sprague to develop its center rather than making a deal with Logistec.

"The short-term fix to issues are never the most prudent way to go," he said. "It will be extremely disappointing to both our intentions and our efforts if this is to happen."

Portland's Transportation Director Jeff Monroe said the first ship bringing European forest products could arrive next month, adding that the port will have enough space for both companies to operate.

The U.S. has seen a sharp increase in European lumber imports since 2000. Al Schuler, an economist with the U.S. Forest Service, says the annual volume of framing lumber imported from Europe has increased from zero to 2 bbf, about twice the amount that Maine produces annually.

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