Southern pine logs moving to foreign users

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

More than 12,000 loaded logs trucks have arrived at the Associated Terminals in St. Bernard Parish since Southern Forest Products, Inc. set up shop at the terminal for their log export business more than a year ago. The terminal, which handles ocean going vessels, is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, a little south of downtown New Orleans.

"We unload between 50 and 70 trucks each day," Cy Hill, terminal manager for Associated told the Piney Woods Journal. "One of the first things that I learned about the logging business is that it is a weather driven business. The weather determines how many loads of logs you get each day. Ultimately the weather even determines how many barge loads of logs we get in from up the river in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. Typically, if the weather is good up the Mississippi River basin, we will get 1-2 barge loads of logs a week."

"Most of the ships that sail out of Associated loaded with pine logs are bound for either Asia or the Mediterranean, around Turkey," Hill continued. "We are very pleased that Southern Forest Products chose to locate their export operation here at the Port in St. Bernard. It is a really big operation for us. We can see the pine log export business growing in the next few years. Associated Terminals has the existing capacity to grow with the increase in log exports. Our Port facilities are located near the interstate system which goes both east/west and north/south. I-10 is just a few miles from our terminal."

I-10 West connects to I-55 which goes directly through the Florida Parishes into southwest Mississippi. On the other hand, I-59 north of Slidell enters into the south/southeast section of heavily forested Mississippi.

Reportedly, Plum Creek Timber Company is a major contributor of logs to the Southern Forest Products, Inc. operations. A large portion of this timber is barged in from locations near Natchez and further upriver in Arkansas.

The Port of St. Bernard Associated Terminal is located in proximity to the pine timber lands of the Florida Parishes in Louisiana and the heavily forested counties in southern Mississippi. Each ship is loaded with approximately 20,000 metric tons of logs. Apparently the goal of Southern Forest Products, Inc. is to load at least one ocean going vessel each month.

"This log export operation at our Associated Terminals is the first of its kind, to our knowledge, on the US Gulf Coast," Hill added. "Within the last year, we have averaged more than one ship per month."

For at the least the last two decades, the forest industry has reported that it has grown more timber than it has harvested. With a huge inventory of Southern Yellow Pine on the stump, the forest industry in Louisiana and Mississippi should be able to meet the challenge of feeding logs to the ships docked at Associated Terminals.

However, the three factors from the supply side of the export operation that will continue to be a daily challenge is first, the weather, secondly, the available logging force and third the price of diesel fuel.

ISO workers tabulating and marking the individual
logs at the Stewart Logging storage yard in Port Allen.
The logs will be transferred from the Stewart Yard to
ship for export to international markets.