It is rare that construction equipment has sea legs. Osprey Logistics is a young company built to offer a solution to a specific problem. And it turned out that the solution meant making their machines work in a seaside location.
The Pacific Northwest is well known for both logging and barge transport. This small business, which serves the logging community in Northwest Washington, was able to find its own way to be a bridge between the two.
Owner Rob Janicki founded Osprey Logistics, located in Everett, Washington, in May 2020 — in the midst of the global health pandemic.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many logging companies found themselves in a bind, including his family’s business, Janicki Logging. The effects on trade meant that landowners on nearby islands who had harvested timber or wood meant for overseas transport had little-to-no way to get their timber moved. Janicki realized he had to do something.
“We are working with the San Juan Island County residents to come up with ways to help them cost-effectively remove timber from their lands,” Janicki says. “All the barge loading and unloading facilities in the region went out of business when the tariffs on China started happening. So we didn’t have a place to land our barges. We decided we needed to go ahead and start a brand-new business in the middle of the worst pandemic since 1918.”
After leasing some land, Janicki worked with Star Marine, a company that owns and operates barges. Together, with Janicki Logging Company providing financing, they built a ramp and set up the operations. They now have a staging area for loading and unloading barges, and they also offer temporary storage.
Rob has been a part of the Washington forestry industry since he was young. His father, Stan, started Janicki Logging in 1957, and although Rob made a career detour to explore the computer business, he ultimatey returned to the family logging business. The people of the industry pulled him back in.
“The people are really good in this industry,” Janicki says. “They’re down to earth and honest. You can trust them.”
Another person who has been instrumental to the start of the business is Dennis Buss, who has accumulated roughly 48 years in the industry. Some people know him as the procurement manager for Osprey Logistics. Others refer to him affectionately as the Timber Yoda. He met the Janicki family when he was running facilities at tree farms in Washington, and their relationship has continued.
Hold the Salt, Please
In the past, barges were not always necessary for transporting timber. In fact, Buss remembers simpler times when boats towed rafted logs through the water.
“We used to route logs all the time,” Buss says. “We’d dump logs in the water, and then we’d tow them from one place to the other, and it went on for years. Maybe 70 years we’ve been doing it — 80 maybe, and that’s the way it was done. But what we have found now, most of these mills have a CoGen plant or boilers that feed their fry kilns.”
CoGen plants use the process of cogeneration to produce electricity and heat at the same time. It’s an efficient process that burns excess wood to produce the power. Unfortunately, saltwater can contaminate the wood and cause negative side effects. The salt will melt, coating the boiler, and as the salt melts, it gives off an emission that pollutes the air. Once the boiler is contaminated, it becomes necessary to shut it down and remove the salt residue — a very expensive cleaning process.
Transporting trees in the Puget Sound is no longer an option, if companies want to keep their products versatile. The trees can’t touch the saltwater because, according to Dennis, “as soon as the wood hits the water, it starts taking on salt like a cork.” This is where the barges come in.
By Land or Sea
The decision to get into the barge business fell into place for Rob and Dennis. Being on a major coast and in a port, transportation by water makes a lot of sense. Not only does it give access to island locations, but traffic becomes less of an issue.
“Trying to get a truck through Seattle or Tacoma, you get one truck a day through there going south,” Buss says. “And that’s a big problem considering today’s truck rates. As for rail, most of the local trains are unit trains that are going up to Canada with coal and coming back with fuel, so rail rates are tough too. The barge becomes the highway around all that traffic and puts it back on the water.”
Tools for the Job
After setting up their site and hiring a crew, Rob and Dennis purchased equipment for their operations. They invested in a Doosan DL550-5 wheel loader and a DX380LL-5 log loader from Cascade Trader, the local Doosan construction equipment dealer.
The decision was based on previous experience with the brand and the available financing. Before working for Osprey Logistics, Dennis managed an operation for FORMARK, his previous employer. They used Doosan equipment and were impressed with the reliability, fuel economy, and performance.
The DL550-5 wheel loader is the second-largest model that Doosan offers. It features a hydraulic locking front differential, which improves the machine’s traction. That’s something that comes in handy when operating in wet environments. Meanwhile, the DX380LL-5 log loader has a loading height of 38 feet and 5 inches, allowing plenty of room to stack logs.
The wheel loader and log loader efficiently load and unload barges when the company has a shipment. The task sounds simple, but the heavy equipment has to traverse a narrow ramp. If the machines stray, they could end up in the water. The wheel loader and log loader are also used to transport and stack material in the staging area.
Pushing Past the Pandemic
Even though Osprey Logistics just got going, Rob already has a vision for what it can become.
“Our main initial product is logs, but over time, we expect to be handling containers and rock aggregate chips, bark, and topsoil,” Janicki says. “Pretty much any bulk product that people want to put on and off of the barge, we will have that capability.”
The company’s location in Everett, Washington, is a bonus for future growth. “We have a lot of land there in Everett, and I could envision us getting into a much bigger distribution opportunity that goes beyond barges,” Janicki says. “There could be a lot of synergy because there’s over a hundred acres of potential industrial land in this area.”
Though the pandemic prompted the creation of Osprey Logistics, Rob and Dennis look forward to the future of the company. There is uncertainty, but there is also anticipation for what they are achieving.
“That’s why we’re so excited about it, because there hasn’t been any real barging done,” Buss says. “There’s been some log barging done around this area in the last few years, but barging like we plan on doing hasn’t been done for a long, long time. So this is a real opportunity.”
On the Cover
Overhead view of Osprey Logistics’ barge transport out of Everett, Washington
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Osprey Logistics serves this logging community by finding a way to bridge logging and barge transport.
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