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Tiwi Island three-year woodchip export deal underway as first ship sets sail

Photo: Woodchips are loaded onto a ship at Port Melville, bound for Japan. (ABC Rural: Lisa Herbert)

Photo: Woodchips are loaded onto a ship at Port Melville, bound for Japan. (ABC Rural: Lisa Herbert)

The first of 14 shipments of woodchips from a Tiwi Islands forestry plantation is due to set sail to Japan. Source: ABC NT Country Hour

The traditional owners of the Tiwis are in charge of nearly 30,000 hectares of Acacia mangium trees.

Staff have been working around-the-clock for four-and-a-half days to load around 32,000 tonnes of the Acacia woodchips onto a Japanese ship.

Tiwi Plantations Corporation signed a woodchip ‘transaction memorandum’ with Mitsui, a large general trading company, three weeks ago, for the supply of 500,000 tonnes of woodchips over three years.

Shipping agent John Wilson has the job of certifying the quality and quantity of the woodchip cargo as it is loaded from Port Melville, 80km north of Darwin.

He said the Acacia woodchips being produced on Melville Island were unique in Australia.

“The difference is, in places like Bunbury, Albany and Geelong, the trees used for the woodchipping come from lots of different privately owned plantations and they can all vary in quality,” Mr Wilson said.

“But here it comes from the one plantation. It’s very, very consistent.”

Plantation Management Partners’ production manager Wayne Burton said while the isolation of Port Melville presented some challenges.

“We try and carry all our spare parts and be self-sufficient, but I guess with a catastrophic mechanical failure or something like that, those are the sort of difficult things,” Mr Burton said.

“We’ve had some things we’ve had to fix up along the way, and it’s stopped us for an hour or two but touch wood, or woodchip, so far it’s been good.”

Watching a steady stream of woodchips being transported into the ship’s hold via a conveyor belt, Tiwi Plantations Corporation chairman Kim Puruntatameri said he was “very proud”.

“It’s great seeing our chips on board the vessel,” he said.

“Now that we’re going ahead with this forestry, they’re doing a tremendous job the Tiwi people.”

Mr Puruntatameri said he was looking forward to more shipments leaving the port, bound for Japan.

“I can hardly wait for that, everything is going forward; it’s certainly making Tiwi people happy,” he said.

Read original article here.