BC Forest Minister Pat Bell said the province needs a direct sailing to China from either Prince Rupert or Vancouver to really meet the needs of that market for BC softwood lumber.
“The big opportunity is to get direct shipping from Prince Rupert to China. Right now the ships come from China to Prince Rupert and sail down to the United States before coming back, and a direct ship would do away with a lot of the loading and unloading time,” he said during a media cal last weekl, adding that currently all of the empty containers that can be shipped back with lumber are being stuffed.
“There would be a huge economic benefit to us to get direct shipping from BC to China…When you look at the tonnage handled, it is the equivalent to a loaded ship leaving BC every three days.”Bell made the comments on a call outlining the significant growth seen in shipments to China. Last year there was $687 million of softwood to the country, making it the second largest importer of BC lumber behind only the United States. And Bell said he only sees that number continuing to grow.
“Our original goal was for export four-billion board feet in 2011, a goal that was set in 2008. At the time most people thought I was nuts…On an annualized basis, the December export numbers point to five billion board feet and if you got back to November the annualized amount is 4.5 billion board feet. I have no question we will meet the goal of exporting four-billion board feet and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number at 4.5 to five billion board feet,” he said.
“I believe in the next few years there will be a time when the shipments to China exceed shipments to the US on their own.”
That being said, Bell said the biggest challenge going forward would be building capacity and said the province is looking at opportunities in both Kitimat and Stewart.