46 Chetwynd St., Loganholme, Queensland, 4129, Australia
P07 3806 1944 (+617 3806 1944) F07 3209 7711 (+617 3209 7711)

 

  

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Imported Plywood    2011 – An Update.

We have been really struggling to get reasonable supplies of good quality marine ply, and it doesn’t look like it is going to become easier over the next months or years.  Here is a brief resumen of what is happening.

 A few years ago, we were really spoiled by what seemed to be an everlasting supply of really good quality Pacific Maple (Shorea sp) BS1088 Marine Ply from the Wyang mill in Indonesia.  Following considerable UN pressure on Indonesia to end unsustainable logging, and unfortunately, because they insisted on only buying legal logs, the mill was unable to continue as it was unable to buy legal logs* at a price which would enable them to make and sell plywood at a price which most of their buyers were prepared to pay.

 Since then, we have been obtaining packs of BS1088 Pink Marine from various sources, mostly Malaysia.  Almost none has been of a quality like the Wyang plywood, most of it has been disappointing, some very disappointing and some frankly did not comply with BS1088 or even come close.

 Our importers are working with agents and directly with the mills, but it is a real struggle.  I understand that the problem is that the Japanese are going to the market in Malaysia and buying everything they can without any great concern as to quality.  In addition they are prepared to pay high prices, well above what our importers can pay.  Of course our importers could pay a lot more, but then, could we even sell the plywood at what would then be a much higher selling price.  There are some other sources around, but they do not have chain of custody* assurance that the plywood is made from legal logs.

 It also seems that many (if not most) of the Malaysian mills just do not understand BS1088 or what they have to do to produce plywood which complies with it.  (We have seen this with the so called BS1088 plywood coming out of China for many years also).  It is important to note that BS1088 is a British standard, and it only has legal effect as a standard in England and any other country which has passed laws making BS1088 a legal standard.  Thus in Australia, New Zealand and the usual source countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, it is no more than a description of what the plywood should be like.

In Australia, we do have the Trade Practices Act which makes it an offence to describe a product as being better or different to what it is.  I think that a lot of imported plywood which is sold as BS1088 marine ply in Australia probably does not comply with BS1088 and so the people selling it could be in trouble under the Trade Practices Act.

 We also must keep in mind that plywood is mass manufactured and there will always be a small number of defects and non complaints sheets.  High class manufacturers have systems in place to prevent this or detect them and remove them from the production run before they reach the customer.

 BS1088 specifies what trees can be used to make marine plywood.  Pink Marine refers to plywood made from Shorea sp (meranti or pacific maple) a durable species which is listed as permitted.  Okume (gaboon) is another permitted species, but interestingly it is listed as a non durable species (that is it is prone to early decay and rot).  Many of the plywoods that we have seen, especially those from China, have a listed species as the face veneer and other non listed, cheaper species for the interior veneers.  Some mills are even quite open about the use of non listed (and probably non durable) species for the interior veneers.

 If you want really high quality plywood, then it is available.  It is just not available at anything like the low prices that we sell this plywood for.  The absolute best marine ply in the world has to be the Australian Hoop Pine AS2272 plywood made here in Queensland.  It is expensive and in short supply (especially after the 2011 floods.)  Boral, one of only two manufacturers of AS2272 Hoop Marine Plywood have closed their Ipswich mill.  We do stock it and sell pretty much all that we can get.  The other choice is european manufactured gaboon.  This is also a tropical hardwood which is listed as non durable in the BS1088 standard.  The logs are transported to a European mill (usually from Africa).  It is then made under a proper quality assurance system, before being shipped to Australia.  We know of one such importer in Australia, the plywood is very good, but the transport costs and penalties are enormous.  (But please don’t confuse this with Chinese or Malaysian gaboon, they are not in the same league.)

 The upshot of all this is that as with most things, you get what you pay for.  In a great many cases the almost BS1088 pink marine will be perfectly satisfactory, especially if you are using epoxy to seal it, and or you are painting it.  You should consider other more expensive plywood if you are bending it tightly or will be finishing it clear (check our plywood report, some is OK).

 

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