Here's How the Mid-Columbia will Play
by Wendy Culverwell
The owner of the Boise paper mill in Wallula will begin barging
sawdust to the Port of Pasco to make cardboard boxes.
PASCO, WA -- Your new Pink sweatpants shipped to you from Victoria's Secret in a box. Now, that humble vessel is helping revive Pasco's slumbering container barge terminal.
Under a deal signed this week, Packaging Corporation of America will soon begin barging sawdust from lumber mills at White Salmon to Big Pasco Industrial Park.
From there, sawdust will be trucked to its Boise mill at Wallula to become cardboard.
The move supports the packaging company's $150 million retooling project to convert the Wallula paper mill, which employs about 600, into a cardboard plant.
And as consumers increasingly turn to e-commerce to buy everything from gun holsters to groceries, the mill and port could see even more business.
The packaging company's decision to make Big Pasco a link in its supply chain is a win for the Port of Pasco. The port has struggled to recruit business to the barge terminal.
Container shipping on the Columbia River dried up in 2015 after Hanjin Shipping Co. of South Korea stopped calling on the Port of Portland, cutting off access to international markets.
Hayden said customers who need to move construction or similar equipment only make occasional use of the facility.
The port is thrilled to see a new, consistent tenant move in, especially one buoyed by increasing demand for its products.
"The reason PCA is going to cardboard is because we're all getting stuff shipped to us," Hayden said. "It's all part of that shift in how we buy things."
The company will pay dockage fees of $2,000 per barge for the first four barges that use the terminal each month and $1,500 for additional arrivals.
The Lake Forest, Ill. paper giant told the port it will bring a minimum of eight to 11 barges to Big Pasco each month.
The company announced last year it would convert the 200,000 ton-per-year No. 3 paper machine at its Wallula paper plant into a 400,000-ton-per-year high-performance linerboard machine to support its box business. Linerboard is the outer layer of corrugated cardboard.
The project will wrap up by the end of this year, when the final pieces of equipment are installed.
The first barge should roll in by early August.
PCA could not be reached about the project, which complements the company's acquisition of cardboard manufacturers in Northern California last year.
Last August, it said the investment would make the Wallula mill more profitable and sustainable.
The company is a leading player in the $66 billion domestic cardboard and container manufacturing market, according to research by IBISWorld, a global market analysis firm.
As part of the conversion to cardboard making, PCA discontinued production of uncoated and coated paper at Wallula.
The company said retooling the Wallula mill would make it more profitable and give it a future as it supports the $6.5 billion company's container board business.
The 10-year lease includes two five-year renewal options and openings to renegotiate the terms. PCA is leasing a small office near the dock that will allow staffers to monitor arrivals.
It will construct a concrete pad for temporary sawdust storage and will bring in its own loading equipment. Blocks will keep the material from spilling.
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