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Potlatch Preparing Log Shipment to China

by Dean Brickey
East Oregonian, November 29, 2006

Trees from Boardman-area farm going through Port of Umatilla

(Dean Brickey) Containers are staged at the Port of Umatilla in preparation for loading with poplar logs bound for China from the Potlatch Corp. tree farm near Boardman. HERMISTON - The Port of Umatilla expects to ship its first containers to China soon, exporting Potlatch Corp. poplar logs.

Kim Puzey, the port's general manager, and other port representatives have been to China twice in the past year in an effort to promote business with Chinese shippers and manufacturers.

Puzey, and Steve Corey of Pendleton, a director of the Port of Portland, spoke Tuesday to members and guests of the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce. Corey talked about the Port of Portland and its relationship to upriver ports such as the Port of Umatilla. He also described his role on the port commission as one of two directors from outside the Portland metro area.

Later Tuesday, a Potlatch Corp. spokesman at the company's headquarters in Spokane confirmed his company's plans.

"We are doing an exploratory marketing project and will be shipping 10 containers of logs to Asia," said Mark Benson, vice president of public affairs.

Puzey said the logs must be fumigated to kill any insects before they are exported, and the company is experimenting with three fumigation methods before sending the first shipment.

Benson said the Chinese buyer intends to process the logs.

"We expect that they will used in veneer," he said, adding that the first shipment is imminent.

"The containers are staged and ready to be loaded," Benson said.

Increasing shipments from the Port of Umatilla are encouraging, Puzey said, considering the "perfect storm" that occurred in the past two years.

Just as the port put its new $3.8 million crane into use, two of the three major shipping lines stopped calling on the Port of Portland. Then Simplot closed its Hermiston potato processing plant.

At one point, container shipments at the Port of Umatilla dropped to zero, Puzey said. The new crane, largely paid for with federal appropriations, sat idle.

"You couldn't find a senator or a congressman who was anywhere close to this project," he joked. "There was not a little bit of egg on our faces. We were treading an omelet."

While the poplar logs will be the port's first shipments to China, powdered milk from Idaho already is being shipped from Umatilla to Vietnam, Puzey said. The shipments are the first brokered by Columbia River Logistics Service Corp., the Oregon branch of a Seattle food and feed exporter.

The port plans to use a $4.7 million Connect Oregon grant to prepare the way for Columbia River Logistics to build a warehouse and distribution center near the container dock. The grant money will be used for excavation and new rail lines and other infrastructure so cargo can be sent and received by river, rail or roadway.

Because the powdered milk going to Vietnam is coming from Jerome, Idaho, Puzey said the port is encouraging more business from that region.

"We're trying to position ourselves as Boise, Idaho's port as well," he said.

Dean Brickey
Potlatch Preparing Log Shipment to China
East Oregonian, November 29, 2006

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