By Tina Irgang Leaderman
When Metsä Group, one of the world’s top forest product companies, was looking for a place to consolidate its East Coast operations, Baltimore turned out to be a natural fit.
The distribution network, capacity availability and the Port’s convenient location played a big role in Metsä’s decision, as did the company’s existing presence there, said Dorothy Geyer, Supply Chain Director for Metsä Board Americas.
Another important factor: the Port of Baltimore’s commitment to sustainability.
“Metsä Board’s sustainability goals for the next 10 years include sustainability requirements for suppliers, and we are seeking ways to reduce CO2 emissions of transportation,” Geyer said. “We have recently updated our supplier code of conduct and we expect all our suppliers/partners to comply with those principles.”
The new contract between Metsä, the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) and terminal operator BalTerm was signed in October 2020 and took effect Jan. 1.
“We are very pleased to grow and expand on our long-term relationships with Metsä and BalTerm,” said MDOT MPA Executive Director William P. Doyle. “Their decision to consolidate all their Mid-Atlantic cargo through Baltimore speaks volumes on the Port of Baltimore’s experienced labor, first-rate facilities, and overall abilities to handle forest products. We value the partnership and look forward to receiving those ships in 2021.”
Ocean carriers Royal Wagenborg and Spliethoff were selected to service Metsä. The first vessel under the new contract, the Royal Wagenborg Oranjeborg, arrived in Baltimore in mid-February.
A Win-Win Agreement
The agreement is a win both for the Port and for Metsä, allowing the company “to improve our transportation services, mitigate costs and enhance our supply chain efforts,” Geyer said. It’s also a win for the Port’s labor force, according to Scott Cowan, President of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333. “Each time a company like Metsä makes the decision to invest long-term in the Port of Baltimore, it means job stability to our men and women.”
Based in Finland, Metsä Group operates in 30 countries around the world, with production facilities in eight countries. The company prides itself on its record of sustainability and stewardship: 100% of the company’s raw wood materials is traceable, and 85% is certified.
A major component of Metsä’s ongoing success is its ability to anticipate market trends and pivot accordingly. One example: Metsä’s decision a few years ago to drop paper products and switch to packaging material.
“Digitalization has decreased paper consumption — a trend that started already years ago,” said Geyer. Metsä “saw an opportunity to grow profitably in paperboard, packaging being a growing sector driven by population growth, globalization and urbanization.”
As consumers began to request more sustainable packaging, demand for fiber-based, recyclable and lightweight packaging materials grew, playing right into Metsä’s focus area. “Today, Metsä Board is a paperboard company with focus on lightweight ecological paperboards,” Geyer said. “This transformation took us more than 10 years, but was definitely worth it.” The transformation has proven to be a successful one. The company is financially in good shape, continuing to build groundwork that enables a long-term, sustainable growth.
Port Helps Support Pandemic Demand
The pandemic, which caused a surge in e-commerce, also resulted in greater demand for Metsä’s products. “Metsä Board’s paperboard products are predominantly used in packaging of food, beverage, pharmaceuticals, household care and similar products, and as such play an important role in securing uninterrupted consumer access to essential products,” Geyer said. “As we responded to the increase in demand, we of course also needed the support of our logistics partners, of which port operators are crucial ones. We are happy to say that the cooperation with the Port of Baltimore has been excellent during this challenging period.”
Metsä Group At a Glance
Year Founded: 1947
Annual Sales: 5.5 billion Euros