PPI Transport Symposium 19 Session Roundups
A worldwide audience travelled to Amsterdam to hear about the latest developments in logistics/transportation
December 5, 2011
By all accounts, PPI Transport Symposium (TS19) was a great success. Under the theme of Growth & Sustainability – Meeting the Challenges in Forest Products Logistics, delegates were treated to a wide range of case histories, possible alternatives/solutions to problems they may face, new technology, world trends in the forest products markets as well as proposed legislation.
The panel discussion design of the sessions was well received and led to a great deal of post-session questioning. What follows is a sampling of the presentations delegates had access to.
Welcoming delegates, attendees exhibitors and guests, IFPTA President Buddy Greene officially opened the 19th meeting of the international symposium dedicated to forest products logistics and related industries. Announcing that more than 750 professionals from 29 countries around the world attended this year’s event, the turnout is an remarkable indicator of how important this event has become.
Since this biennial symposium serves at the worldwide meeting for members of the International Forest Products Transport Association (IFPTA), Greene especially welcomed its members, calling the IFPTA “a global fraternity, an association made up of friends and colleagues alike.” This is your event, he said, and urged IFPTA members to take part in the sessions and exhibit hall, “enjoying all that PPI Transport Symposium has to offer.”
On the stage this year, standing next to Greene, was a newly replaced “talking stick”. A symbolic baton giving its holder the right to the floor, the PPI Talking Stick has been a feature of every Symposium since 1972. Unfortunately, a few years ago, the original talking stick was lost. Thanks to former IFPTA Director Tim Chapman and Western Stevedoring, a replacement was handcrafted and presented to the IFPTA and to the Symposium. With it in place, the conference program could officially begin.
Before introduced the keynote speakers, Greene extended a special appreciation to those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to produce this year’s event. First and foremost, he thanked Jaap Simonse and George Hudson, saying, “Without their efforts, we would not be here.” RISI and the IFPTA Association also deserved recognition for their work in putting on the event. And then to a warm round of applause, he thanked everyone for attending. “Without you, we wouldn’t be here either.”
As Dertje Meijer, CEO of the Port of Amsteram, began her comments, she opened with her own heartfelt welcome from the City and Port of Amsterdam. She was “very pleased to see delegates from around the world coming to talk about the pulp and paper industry.” This is an important industry, she said, not only because of its modern day significant to the economy of the region, but also for its history to Amsterdam.
“The city of Amsterdam is built on forest products,” she said. Fisherman originally placed wood palisades along the banks of the Amstel River, founding the early city. Later, timber would become a major driver for the shipbuilding industry, growing the city and stretching out its reach across the oceans. Today, the port handles more than 92 million tonnes/yr of cargo, ranking it as the fourth biggest port in Europe. Forest products are a significant portion of that volume.
Meijer added that she was pleased to see the title of this year’s conference, “Growth & Sustainability,” because it was in line with the Port’s own vision for the future. But growth by itself is not the most important goal. “Our aim is to diversify cargo streams and reach a perfect mix of volumes, transshipment, employment and added value,” she said. Forest products fits in perfectly to this strategy.
Sjuul Paradijs, editor-in-chief of De Telegraaf, was this year’s keynote speaker. Overseeing the largest news daily in the Netherlands, he began by sharing a little secret. When someone asks Paradijs what he does for a living, he replies without hesitation, “I have been in the paper business all my life!” Welcome to a country, he said, where 3.5 million paid newspapers are delivered every day.
The newspaper industry is struggling today, he said, and this isn’t news to anyone. “We can trace the cause of the current state of affairs to three main innovations. First, there was a dramatic increase in the amount of paper products used by newspapers. Second, newspapers began giving things away for free, like Internet access and additional products.”
And these might not be so bad if not for the third innovation: when print readership began to decline, newspapers raised their prices. This was the biggest mistake and one that has hurt the most. “Any economics student would know this is not the right response.”
“But the sun is starting to shine and the birds are starting to sing,” he said. There is a vision to be seen where newspapers will continue and could begin to thrive again. Content is the answer and that is the best way to reach the public.
To reach that goal, Paradijs implored, “Shall we talk about the price of paper?” Forest products companies play a crucial role right now because they must consider working with newspapers on the price of paper instead of “only thinking for their own finances.” If paper companies and transporters can work with newspapers, to see a larger vision for the future, we all win.
RISI OUTLOOK PRESENTATION: FORECAST FOR THE GLOBAL PULP AND PAPER INDUSTRY
Rod Young, Chief Economic Advisor for RISI, offered some positive and some not-so-positive news as he presented a “Global Outlook for the Pulp and Paper Industry. Recent market developments are showing a slowdown after the strong bounce from the 2009 recession.
There are prospects for demand growth through 2013 with developing countries continuing to lead the way. For grades like graphic paper, demand is still low, with minimal prospects, but prices have rebounded to pre-recession levels. This news may please producers, he said, but not necessarily consumers like Paradijs’ De Telegraaf.
Continuing with the demand side, Young predicted that packaging and tissue would continue and will be the “bright side.” Demand for recovered paper as a fiber source is expected to grow as well, primarily in China.
But there is also a healthy outlook for virgin fiber from South America. On the supply side, “Papermakers have to let go of the reins with respect to capacity expansion,” he said. Operating rates are dropping again after rebounding strongly in 2010, which is undermining profitability in the face of rising production costs.
For international trade, growth in paper and board will remain limited relative to demand. It is the “fiber that flows around the world,” said Young. Trade in fiber will expand at a rapid pace, with China generating the majority of the import demand. To meet this demand, the developed world will have to supply more recovered paper and South American will be the focus on wood pulp exports.
Looking ahead, the world paper and board market is “in the midst of a weak patch,” associated with the sluggish economic growth. World demand for paper will accelerate in 2012 and 2013, with containerboard and tissue showing the best performance.
Capacity expansion will continue at a strong pace, primarily focused on China and in recycled grades. And he reiterated that international trade would be weighted toward fiber, with China expected to be focal point on the import side, news that everyone in attendance was talking about at the first coffee break.