A ship that set sail from the Port of Charleston this week could come to symbolize a new business opportunity for South Carolina’s forest industry and the world’s most populous nation.
Twenty containers stuffed with 800 Southern yellow pine logs were loaded on a vessel bound for China, marking the first such shipment in more than a year. The exports are part of a test program between the U.S. with the Chinese government to restore limited trade for the product.
A ban on log shipments from South Carolina, as well as from Virginia, was provisionally lifted this year.
The logs came from the Walterboro area and were exported by Garley Forest Products, a Mississippi-based company that recently established in the Charleston area to take advantage of the U.S-China trade program. The containers left the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant.
“South Carolina’s forestry industry is a major driver of exports from our port, whether paper, wood pulp or logs,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority. “China is a rapidly expanding market for Southeast logs and lumber, so reopening the trade boosts volume at the port and supports jobs across the logistics industry.”
The restored business adds to the port’s strategy plan to grow its export business. The plan includes actively courting Midwest-based shippers of agriculture goods to increase the volume of Asian trade that will flow through an expanded Panama Canal in the next few years.
“This pilot program supports our strategic focus to grow exports from our port, including South Carolina forest products and grains from the Midwest,” said SPA spokeswoman Allison Skipper.
Leigh Allen, president of Garley Forest Products, said the program required additional steps to prepare the logs for export, but that it is worth it to reopen trade relations with China.
“We feel good about the market,” Allen said in statement. “It’s a great opportunity for the landowners in the Southeast, especially near the deep-water ports that serve the Far East.”
Tyrone Richardson contributed to this story.