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December 27, 2016

Eastport takes another step to advance wood chip exports to EU

PHOTo / Leslie Bowman
PHOTo / Leslie Bowman
Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority, who was honored as a 2015 Nexter by Mainebiz, says efforts to ship bulk wood chips to the European Union hinge on financing for a shipboard heat-treating system to eliminate pests in the wood fibers.

Eastport is one step closer to shipping bulk wood chips to the European Union for use as biomass fuel.

Eastport Port Authority approved a financing plan to implement a heat-treating system to eliminate pests in wood fibers, especially the pinewood nematode, before shipment.

The Quoddy Tides reported that a company called Phyto-Charter has developed and patented the shipboard heat treating system to meet the phytosanitary requirements of the European Union.

At its Dec. 19 meeting, the Eastport Port Authority approved motions that will allow it to hold the license to the new phytosanitation technology and be able to obtain $1.65 million in Maine Department of Transportation financing to complete the shipboard heat-treating system. The board then agreed to contract with Phyto-Charter to finish building it, The Quoddy Tides reported.

The financing for the equipment was the key missing link in being able to proceed with the project.

Phyto-Charter invested a considerable amount of money to develop the equipment. But Port Authority Executive Director Chris Gardner told the paper it was "difficult to attract new capital into this, because it's never been deployed full scale. It was hard to get a financing package."

The heat-treating system operates as the vessel is being loaded and is viewed as the most cost-effective means of heat-treating wood chips.

MDOT Deputy Commissioner Jonathan Nass told the paper, "We think this will help both the port and the region" because the exporting of low-grade wood will help the forest products industry.

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