Outrigger mats go green

12 April 2011

Since 2002, crane and outrigger mats made of tropical hardwoods, such as Azobe, Cumaru Dabema, Greenheart, Mora and Wamara, have been sustainably produced in Guyana by Guyana Timber Products (GTP), a sales organisation run by Dutch shareholders. It sells timber products that come from sustainably managed forests. Cristina Brooks reports.

GTP has been operating in Georgetown, capital of Guyana, since the Guyana-Norway forest protection agreement, a UN-led initiative, established a system for auditing and reporting on sustainable forestry in Guyana. If Guyana fails to demonstrate sustainable harvesting to external auditors, it can face sanctions.

GTP delivers the mats to a distribution depot in Ootmarsum, Netherlands. The company also ships mats outside of Europe to Asia, America and Australia.

Local timber companies, such as Guyana Mats and Timbers (GMT), harvest the wood and prepare beams, which GTP then makes into products and sells. Companies receive logistical assistance from GTP through the use of trucks and investment in equipment.

GTP’s goal has been to create a processing plant for wood products, but its progress has been hindered by the necessity of permits. Constructing the plant has taken three years.

Dutch shareholders at GTP have decided to focus on producing high quality timber mats, in part because of the proximity of the distribution plant to Dutch crane manufacturers.

Mats are created first through sorting the wood into standard, premium and excellent versions, which relates to the closeness of the grain and the durability of the wood. Then the mat structure is composed, with a minimum of wastage, from the chamfered logs. They are held together with large steel bolts and thick washers. The finished mats are about 5 by 12m each.

GTP aims to increase the sustainability of Guyana’s timber industry and meet international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards, expanding the market for its sustainable timber mats.

Timber mats are generally used under the tracks of crawler cranes or outrigger pads to distribute the weight and keep cranes stable on soft ground, however the use of wood outrigger mats for large cranes is diminishing.

GTP hopes to reintroduce the timber mat for this application, noting that companies can benefit from the timber mat’s elasticity, cost effectiveness and lighter weight compared to steel fabricated mats. It suggests using timber mats for dockside wharf protection, offshore protection for barges, platforms and temporary roads.