After years of inactivity due to storm damage, the Port of Wilmington once again has a working woodchip 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, bound for Turkey. Aboard a vessel of around 650 feet, Basaga International has loaded around $2.5 million worth of products for its maiden voyage, which is expected to reach Turkey around August 10.
Owner Taner Basaga spent 10 years managing a business that previously operated at the same facility, Yildiz Entegre, before it closed following damage from Hurricane Florence. Trade tensions with China further complicated matters, Basaga said, and the company ultimately chose to leave rather than invest in necessary upgrades to the facility.
“You couldn’t make it work,” he said. “The interview was essential. Basaga’s assistant Ariella Wilson added, “We’ve breathed new life into her.”
Basaga International has spent $2.5 million to upgrade the premises at 2128 Burnett Blvd., with work beginning earlier this year. The company invested in a conveyor system, a charger and a new electrical room. Basaga said upgrades are still on the way as he expects equipment that will streamline loading operations and cut delivery driver journeys by around 20 minutes.
About 95% of the material received by the facility is softwood pine logs from a radius of about 100 miles around the port (sometimes it receives already chipped wood). After delivery, the logs are chipped on site before being loaded onto a ship for international export.
The renovated facility helps support the local forest and forestry industry, he said.
Buyers so far include processors of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which uses wood chips to make products such as kitchen cabinets, laminate flooring, furniture, and more. “It’s used everywhere,” Basaga said. “They take the wood, it goes to a refinery, mixes it with glue, then presses it, then sends it.”
Wood chips can also be purchased by pulp producers, according to Basaga: “We produce for everyone – I don’t have a favourite.
Logs are chipped based on a buyer’s specific needs, he said. “Every client is different,” he said. “They give us the specifications, the sizes, the thickness, every nine yards, and we produce it accordingly.”
The first major buyers of Basaga International are both located in Turkey but represent different companies. The company’s facility in Wilmington is its first physical location and headquarters, although the company has performed work using other companies’ facilities in Alabama, Basaga said.
With 10 full-time employees, Basaga International prepared as soon as the first logs arrived in May for its first major export. A second export is expected later this month, with around 10% more volume. Before the big ship arrived last month, Basaga said the company exported in smaller batches in the spring, around 10,000 tonnes at a time.
Basaga said he is considering potential expansion to Morehead City and hopes to export about 400,000 short tons of woodchips out of Wilmington before the end of the year.