Monday, 06 May 2013 22:47

Ports pursuing wood pellet operations; shipping expanded in Latin America

ports mapBusiness opportunities are expanding at the Port of Wilmington, as the N.C. State Ports Authority is looking to establish facilities for shipping wood pellets while seeing its service in Latin America expanded.

The authority’s board of directors recently authorized acting executive director Jeff Miles to move forward, in consultation with board chairman Danny McComas, with completing deals that would secure wood-pellet operations at both the Port of Wilmington and the Port of Morehead City.

Not to be confused with wood chips, which are currently shipped through both state ports and are used for production of pressured particleboard, wood pellets are a growing source of renewable energy, particularly in the European Union, where the pellets are used to fire boilers, explained Laura Blair, spokeswoman for the authority.

Blair said the board had previously approved a request for proposals for a wood-pellet facility at the Port of Wilmington, and that staff continues to talk with potential customers. Blair said the board’s recent direction to pursue wood-pellet operations at the ports “represents an interesting and exciting potential line of business for us.”

The board was scheduled to participate in a teleconference call Monday afternoon, though the purpose of that call was not specified in a notice.

In other ports news, the authority issued a release this morning announcing new connections to Latin America for ports customers, via recent changes in Maersk Line’s shipping service.

Maersk is adding port calls in Panama and Costa Rica to its weekly South Atlantic Express (SAE) line, which currently connects the Port of Wilmington with Central America. Shippers and receivers can now directly access Manzanillo, Panama, and Puerto Moin, Costa Rica, in addition to Puerto Cortes, Honduras, and Santo Tomas, Guatemala, among other additions in service, the release states.

“The Maersk SAE service at the Port of Wilmington largely supports North Carolina’s textile and apparel industries,” Miles said in the release, “and is helping to sustain the jobs of thousands of North Carolina workers in these and related industries.”

Added Peter Klaus, vice president, liner sales, for the ports authority: “North Carolina’s ports help boost N.C. textile companies’ bottom line with more efficient supply chain.”

According to the release, Maersk has provided weekly service between Wilmington and Honduras and Guatemala for the past four years. “Maersk has enjoyed increasing support from North Carolina business and industry,” the release adds, noting volumes in the first quarter of 2013 show 24-percent growth over the same timeframe in 2010.

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