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Logging and Sawmilling Journal October/November 2010

July/August 2011

On the Cover:

Lumber exports from B.C. to China are hitting record levels. Recent trade figures show that the value of softwood lumber exported to China has surpassed the U.S., a powerful signal about the importance of Asia Pacific lumber markets.
Logging and Sawmilling Journal takes a look at the China lumber market in a special supplement beginning on page 36 of this issue. (Cover photo of B.C. lumber being loaded at the Lynnterm facility of Port Metro Vancouver by Rob Stanhope).

Spotlight

The recently created Northwest B.C. Forest Coalition is taking a co-operative approach to marketing the region’s forest resource—the province’s largest uncommitted wood basket—and the response to date has been very positive, with a number of interested parties.

Focus on productive—and safe—working environment

New Tigercat equipment and an innovative business approach have reinforced Alberta logging contractor Jesse Bowman’s focus on a productive, satisfying and safe work logging environment.

Conifex delivers higher value with upgrade

A $31 million upgrade at the Fort St. James, B.C. operation of Conifex is delivering more higher valued lumber products—and resulting in a smoother, more efficient product flow.

The COFI convention is back!

The COFI annual convention is back, and Logging and Sawmilling Journal is the Official Show Guide: Read all about the convention, being held September 15 to 17 in Prince George, and how the recovery of COFI’s lumber producing members is benefiting almost all types of businesses in British Columbia.

The booming China lumber market

China: It’s the single biggest reason for the recovery of the B.C. forest industry and Logging and Sawmilling Journal takes a look at this booming market, and how to meet the needs of customers.

Canucks head to Florida—to help with sawmilling

Florida-based Suwannee Lumber needed to find a way to handle dense, heavy and pitchier Southern Yellow Pine through its sawmill. The solution? Bring in the Canucks, in the form of Bosch Rexroth Canada and its MAC-8 control system.

What’s in…The Edge!

Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry— now incorporated into Logging and Sawmilling Journal—read all about research projects related to Canadian Wood Fibre Centre/Natural Resources Canada, Alberta Innovates-Bio Solutions and FPInnovations.

Tech Update –
The head’s up on heads

Logging and Sawmilling Journal has the latest information on what’s new in harvesting, processing and felling heads in this issue’s Tech Update.

Supplier newsline

The last word

 

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PEI contactor Frank McAree

Something old, something new

PEI contactor Frank McAree has kept his logging operation efficient through some difficult times with a combination of older and newer equipment, including a new Rottne F14 forwarder equipped with a Cranab grapple.

By George Fullerton

Frank McAree has seen all kinds of challenges in the 40 years he has been working in the Prince Edward Island forest industry. But McAree says that the past half decade has been especially difficult, with low wood prices and shrinking markets, while fuel and other costs have continued to increase. And most recently, he’s witnessing that it is increasingly difficult for logging contractors to access equipment financing.

“There are not many of us left,” comments McAree in the rapid clipped accent typical to eastern Prince Edward Island, referring to the shrinking contractor base. “We have some markets, but there is still not much price—it is real hard sledding.”

McAree’s forestry career began in 1973 when he went to work with a contractor and began operating cable skidders and Hahn harvesters. In 1976, he set off on his own creating Island Pulp Producers and operating from his home base in Cardigan, Prince Edward Island.

Through the 1970s and up to the mid-1990s, Prince Edward Island had a dynamic domestic sawmill industry as well as a vibrant pulpwood export trade. Through the late-1990s and the first half decade of the new century, McAree, along with other Island contractors, shipped the bulk of their production to hungry mills in New Brunswick.

“For many years we shipped pretty well all our softwood to the UPM mills at Miramichi. After they closed in 2007, we had to look around for new markets. There seemed to be too much Crown land wood feeding other New Brunswick mills, so we ended up selling our wood in Nova Scotia,” explains McAree.

“Through the years we had looked at markets in Nova Scotia, but figured it would not be very profitable for us. But now just about every stick we produce is going into Nova Scotia mills. We are not getting much of a price for our wood, but we are continuing to operate.”

Frank McAree with forwarder operator Gary CoatesFrank McAree (left) with forwarder operator Gary Coates. McAree confirms that he is sold on a number of familiar Rottne F14 forwarder features, including two separate hydraulic systems: one for the transmission and one for the working hydraulics.

In the past few years, Island Pulp has contracted to do a significant amount of land clearing for agriculture. However, according to McAree, that has dropped off because agriculture is not doing so well in PEI, and the investment in land development has dried up. Island Pulp Producers has cut back operations, reducing their number of employees from twenty-five, to just eight.

McAree talked about the land they work on—and what equipment works best there. “About 80 per cent of the woodland we cut on was once farm land. Usually, it is dry, with not much in the way of steep terrain. Wheeled harvesters work great on that type of ground.”

McAree’s equipment includes a 2005 Ponsse Ecolog 580 harvester with a Log Max 6000 head, a 2005 Rottne RK 200 with Log Max 5000 head, and a Rottne F14 forwarder that was delivered new in the summer of 2010.

A pair of cable skidders—a Clark and a Franklin—remain in the equipment inventory and work on scarification projects and harvesting operations with a lot of big hardwoods. McAree hires a sawhand and a skidder operator to feed wood to a roadside Hahn harvester, which he operates himself.

“We operate only single shift, eight or ten hours per day. Sometimes we will double shift the forwarder if there is a lot of wood on the ground. My experience with double shifting has been that it is not as productive as a single day shift. Double shifts are also hard on operators and hard on equipment.”

Wood transport is covered with three tractor trailers, a Mack, a Volvo and a Kenworth, in addition to a Sterling tandem-pup combination with a Serco loader. The Sterling loads the trailers, and makes log and fuel wood deliveries on the Island.

Almost all of the land in PEI is privately owned—less than two per cent is Crown land.

“So more than 90 per cent of our harvest work is on private woodlots,” says McAree. “I work in a 50 to 60 kilometre radius from our shop near Montague, but sometimes we travel a little further if one of our clients owns a woodlot further up the Island. Sometimes a land owner will call me and other times I will call an owner to see if they want some wood cut, especially if I am already operating close by.”

Their average size cut would be somewhere around twenty-five acres. Most often, they are cutting white spruce or balsam fir that is mature. Most stands they see are even-aged, simply because most often those stands originated from abandoned farmland that reverted to forest in a relatively short time. Generally, they clear cut, but they also do some strip cuts.

They offer an incentive for replanting. “When we make a deal to harvest a block, we also offer to pay half of the owner’s costs to have the cutover planted through the provincial silviculture program,” says McAree. “Planting is a big advantage for the owner because they can plant a species that has more market value and longer life than the fir or white spruce natural regeneration that generally comes in.”

2005 Ponsse Ecolog 580 harvester with a Log Max 6000 headMcAree’s equipment includes a 2005 Ponsse Ecolog 580 harvester with a Log Max 6000 head. “About 80 per cent of the woodland we cut on was once farm land. Usually it’s dry, with not much in the way of steep terrain. Wheeled harvesters work great on that type of ground.”

Sawlog production goes to Abitibi-Bowater in Bridgewater and hardwood pulpwood goes to a chipping plant at Sheet Harbour. Softwood pulpwood goes to Northern Pulp in Pictou County and to the New Page mill in Port Hawkesbury, Cape Breton Island. A small amount of hardwood is sold to the domestic fuel wood market in PEI.

Through the summer tourist season, Island Pulp can catch the Wood Island ferries to Nova Scotia, which makes the Northern Pulp delivery trip less then 100 kilometres and the Bridgewater run some 600 kilometres. After the ferries shut down in December, the trucks have to cross the fixed link into New Brunswick, in order to travel on to the Nova Scotia mills.

“Crossing the link makes a lot longer trip and that means a lot more fuel. It adds 400 kilometres to every trip,” says McAree. “Our office manager, Joan, pointed out that when the ferries shut down, we are burning as much fuel in a week as we did in a month through the summer. That has a big impact on our operations, and fuel is not getting any cheaper.”

In July 2010, Island Pulp took delivery of a new Rottne F14 forwarder from Rottne Canada in Moncton. It is the third Rottne forwarder they have purchased.

“Typically, we like to keep harvesters and forwarders for three years, and then trade them. Generally, they have relatively low hours and good trade-in value. The old Rottne forwarder was a 2004, and it was working really well. But Rottne Canada offered a good deal to trade up, so we decided to go for it.”

McAree relates that when he went to his bank to arrange financing for around 50 per cent of the machine's value, he got a big surprise. His local bank no longer had authority to finance forestry equipment.

“We’ve always had good relations with our bank, but their headquarters simply said, no more investments in the forestry business. We soon found out that other financial institutions had adopted similar policies. GE Capital were out of forestry, CIBC Equipment Finance did not want to handle our forestry equipment financing—even independents that specialized in forestry financing were not working with forestry. In the end, our proposal to buy the forwarder had to get approval from a meeting at the bank’s headquarters in Toronto, and eventually they came up with a deal.”

Once the finance hurdle was cleared, McAree said the forwarder was delivered and went right to work, with absolutely no problems.

“We have had two warranty checks and everything is working just fine. Basically, it is the same machine as the one we had, but with a lot of refinements. It performs really well. It is quiet and powerful and the double bogie makes it very stable.”

They ordered it with a Cranab grapple. “I really like their design, and they are reliable, easy to work with and very productive. We have a Cranab grapple on our loader truck as well.”

The new machine has a John Deere 6068 TF Tier III, turbocharged six cylinder engine developing 185 horsepower.

“The new engine is very quiet and it gives us quite a bit better fuel economy,” says McAree. “The cab is redesigned some, with more room and great visibility all around. This machine has no steering wheel, which makes the cab even roomier. The machine is a little wider overall than the last one, which gives it a bit more stability.”

McAree confirms that he is sold on a number of familiar Rottne F14 features, including two separate hydraulic systems: one for the transmission and one for the working hydraulics. Transmission oil cooling is incorporated with the side mounted engine radiator. The working hydraulics’ cooling radiator is at rear of cab.

“The loader is a RK120 which is a little different design, but from an operating standpoint it is much the same as previous loaders, but a little stronger.”

The RK 120 loader has 59,000 foot pounds of lifting torque, a 23-foot reach and dual slewing cylinders. The forwarder also has a sliding head rack to accommodate different log lengths.

The Cranab grapple works well on the machine. “We really like the way the Cranab can gather up wood very nicely and leave the brush on the ground.”

Despite current challenges facing the forest industry, and more specifically the harvesting sector in Prince Edward Island, McAree is keeping his eye on the game and looks forward to better times ahead.

“We are still growing good fibre here on the Island. We have the expertise to harvest and move it to market. We just need to see some more markets and stronger prices.”