After years of inactivity due to storm damage, the Port of Wilmington once again has an operating wood chip facility with the opening of Basaga International.
The company exported its first major shipment filled with 36,000 short tons of wood chips on July 24, headed to Turkey. Aboard a roughly 650-foot vessel, Basaga International loaded roughly $2.5 million worth of the product for its first voyage, scheduled to reach Turkey around Aug. 10.
Owner Taner Basaga spent 10 years managing a company that formerly operated out of the same facility, Yildiz Entegre, before it shuttered following damage from Hurricane Florence. Trade tensions with China further complicated matters, Basaga said, and the company ultimately opted to leave rather than invest in needed upgrades to the facility.
“You could not operate it,” he said. “Maintenance was a must.” Basaga’s assistant, Ariella Wilson, added, “We breathed a new life into it.”
Basaga International spent $2.5 million to upgrade the premises, at 2128 Burnett Blvd., with work starting at the beginning of the year. The company invested in a conveyer system, loader and a new electric room. Basaga said upgrades are still ongoing, as he’s waiting on a piece of equipment that will streamline loading operations and reduce delivery drivers’ trips by about 20 minutes.
About 95% of the material the facility receives is softwood pine logs sourced within about a 100-mile radius of the port (occasionally it will receive already chipped wood). After delivery, the logs are chipped on site before they are loaded onto a vessel for international export.
The revamped facility is helping to support the local logging and forestry industry, he said.
Buyers so far include medium-density fiberboard (MDF) processors, which use wood chips to produce products like kitchen cabinets, laminate flooring, furniture and more. “It’s used everywhere,” Basaga said. “They take the wood, it goes to a refinery, mix it with the glue, then press it, then send it.”
Wood chips can also be purchased by pulp producers, according to Basaga: “We produce for anybody –– I don't have a favorite.”
Logs are chipped based on a specific buyer’s needs, he said. “Each customer is different,” he said. “They give us specifications, the sizes, the thickness, all nine yards, and we produce it accordingly.”
Basaga International’s first major buyers are both located in Turkey but represent different companies. The company’s facility in Wilmington is its first physical location and headquarters, though the company has done work utilizing other companies’ facilities in Alabama, Basaga said.
With 10 full-time employees, Basaga International prepared since the first logs arrived in May for its first major export. A second export is scheduled for later this month, set to carry about 10% more volume. Before the large vessel arrived last month, Basaga said the company had been exporting in smaller batches sing the spring, about 10,000 tons at a time.
Basaga said he’s eyeing a potential expansion in Morehead City and hopes to export about 400,000 short tons of wood chips out of Wilmington before the year ends.
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