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20th December 1998

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Case for wood poles for power lines

In the olden days, Hora, an endemic species growing in natural forests was used for the production of wood poles. The use of wood poles as line supports obtains in many European countries, such as Sweden, Norway, Finland and the UK., Sweden, Norway and Finland employ wood poles in the setting up of power lines up to 220 Kv, while in the UK, all power lines33 Kv and below are built on wood poles.

By Asiff Hussein

A leading Sri Lankan Development plan- ner recently proposed that locally produced wood poles obtained from private commercial plantations be used as power line supports instead of the costly concrete or galvanised iron line supports now in use.

Joe Varnakulasinghe, a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers of Sri Lanka (IESL) has in his paper 'Wood poles for power lines, their use worldwide and removing impediments to their use here' (1998) show the possibility of utilizing exotic softwoods grown in commercial plantations to produce quality pressure-treated wood poles that could be employed as viable power line supports.

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) currently employs concrete for supporting power lines up to 33 Kv and galvanised iron supports for power lines of 33 Kv-220 Kv. Light weight wood poles are also used to provide electricity to rural communities in hilly terrain.

Mr. Varnakulasinghe, who has been intimately involved in the electricity supply industry in the UK, especially in the design and construction of transmission lines and wood poles for power line supports, contends that final thinnings obtained from plantations dedicated to the production of logs for the sawn timber trade could easily be used to serve as line supports instead of being used as fence posts and props.

lt is understood that presently only a small percentage of the final thinnings are being utilized for the production of wood poles, with the bulk of it going into the production of fence posts and props which not only fetch a lower price but also have a shorter service life than wood poles.

Mr. Varnakulasinghe contends that the conversion of the bulk of the final thinnings into wood poles will promote electrification and industrial growth. The State Timber Corporation's annual production of some 15,000 wood poles is today insufficient to meet the needs of the rural areas and the shortfall in supply has forced the CEB to import such poles at great cost.

Obtaining the required final thinnings is expected to pose no problem as constant thinning of plantations dedicated to the sawn timber trade is necessary to ensure that the logs obtained from the final harvest are straight, long and large in diameter, as well as free from knots.

"The established way of ensuring that the logs obtained from the final harvest conform to the requirements is to start off the plantation with the seedlings spaced about a metre apart" explains Mr.Varnakulasinghe.

"The close spacing encourages competition and the dominant individuals grow taller than the others. The weaker ones are then removed creating space for the dominant ones to grow steadily.This process is called thinning and is repeated twice or thrice before the final harvest.

He points out that in case thinning is not carried out regularly, the plantation will simply degrade into scrub as happened to a few thousand hectares of pinus caribea not long ago.

"The early thinnings are so slender that they can only be used as firewood. The later thinnings are useful as fence posts and props.The final thinnings can serve as line supports.

'Thinnings not used in some such way end up being burnt or allowed to decay on the forest floor" he notes.

Mr. Varnakulasinghe's arguments against importing wood poles into the country is deserving of some consideration.

He points out that the hot and humid climate of the country facilitates the growth of fungi and other destructive micro-organisms, thereby making poles subject to splits, cracks and other defects that permit the entry of fungi into the core of the pole unsatisfactory for use as line supports.

Consequently this would rule out poles from dry climate. Poles from cold regions where growth is slow are free from splits and other defects, thus making it suitable for the purpose.

However, as pointed out by Mr.Varnakulasinghe, such poles are expensive and entail considerable costs in transport . Further, importing such poles or any wood poles for that matter does not make much sense in a context where this country has thinnings that could be treated and used, he notes.

The drain on our foreign exchange in going for large-scale import of wood poles should also be taken into consideration.

However, the main difficulty is that the supply and use of wood poles has been the concern of various governmental organisations such as the Forest Department, State Timber Corporation and the CEB which having other wider priorities do not place due emphasis on the production and use of such poles.

Mr.Varnakulasinghe proposes that the private sector be encouraged to undertake the commercial production of wood poles.

He notes that this will ensure that thinning of the plantations is done on time and that productive use is made of all thinnings.It would also mean increasing the production and use of wood poles to 3-4 times the present number within as little as a year or two.

Mr. Varnakulasinghe contends that such a measure could also spearhead a drive for improving the forestry industries and the production of logs for the sawn timber trade. He points out that there need be no cause for concern about depleting forest cover as today only exotic softwoods grown in man-made forests are used for wood pole production.

In the olden days, Hora, an endemic species growing in natural forests was used for the production of wood poles. The use of wood poles as line supports obtains in many European countries, such as Sweden, Norway, Finland and the UK., Sweden, Norway and Finland employ wood poles in the setting up of power lines up to 220 Kv, while in the UK, all power lines33 Kv and below are built on wood poles.

In the Americas, particularly in the tropical belt, wood poles are widely used as they are known to perform better under severe conditions of lightning. Countries like Malaysia, Australia and South Africa are also said to use wood poles for the same reason.

Species that provide valuable timbers are not generally used for the production of wood poles. Besides, although a number of species are listed on national wood pole specifications, few countries deploy more than one or two species.

According to Mr. Varnakulasinghe, availability, a very limited variability in strength, a minimum of defects and ease of treatment are the qualities that finally establish the species that becomes popular in a country or region. For instance, the standard species used in Europe is pinus sylvestris which is cultivated in the Scandinavian states.

Mr.Varnakulasinghe contends that the best poles for processing and use here are those that are grown on Sri Lankan soil. He notes that the small number of locally-grown wood poles that are used as power supports fall far short of good practice with regard to their treatment and deployment. According to Mr. Varnakulasinghe, the most effective method of treatment for the purpose is the pressure treatment process.

He notes that experimental evidence and experience indicate that the best preservative for wood poles is coal tar creosote and the most effective method of its application the Rueping pressure impregnation process which ensures that the surface of the pole is dry and free of preservative at the end of the process.

A committeee set up by the Sri Lanka Stand- ards Institution (SLSI) to draft specifications on wood poles drew up eight specifications after a thorough study of the methods of fabrication and the options in regard to preservatives and processes. Six of the specifications have now been issued as SLS standards while the balance two, which dealt with preservative treatment using copper chrome arsenic have been held back due to environmental concerns .

A special feature of the SLS standards not found in any other national specification is the codified classification of all the species of poles adopted by the standards, according to length and load capability.

Mr.Varnakulasinghe believes that this will greatly facilitate their deployment on power lines.

However, although the standards were accepted by the State Timber Corporation, the CEB and the Telecom representatives on the Drafting Committee, not a single pole has been ordered or produced on the basis of these standards.

Mr.Varnakulasinghe claims that due to this lackadaisical attitude on the part of the state authorities, the ad hoc practices adopted decades ago continue unabated and tens of thousands of poles that could otherwise have been used as line supports continue to be burnt. lt is therefore high time that the relevant state authorities got their priorities right and set about a co-ordinated action plan to ensure the proper production and use of wood poles as line supports.

Mr. Varnakulasinghe's proposal is a viable one that stands to benefit the country on the long run. Besides active state involvement, the co-operation of the private sector will also be necessary to make the plan a nationally beneficial exercise.


SEA Japan 2000 set for April 2000 in Tokyo

An international maritime exhibition, called SEA JAPAN 2000, will be held at the Tokyo Big Site, an international exhibition hall facing Tokyo Bay, on April 5-7, 2000, according to organizers.

About 350 maritime industry companies and organizations will take part in the exhibition, which is expected to attract some 15,000 visitors.

The biennial exhibition was held for the first time in Yokohama in 1994 with 282 companies from 20 nations taking part. The third exhibition was held this year under the name of"Sea Exhibition '98." With its name returned to its original SEA JAPAN, the 2000 exhibition will be held for the first time in Tokyo. All the past three exhibitions were held in Yokohama.

Organized by Miller Freeman and Seatrade Japan, it will be supported by the Ship Machinery Manufacturers' Association of Japan, the Japanese Shipowners' Association, the Shipbuilders' Association of Japan and the Japan Ship Exporters' Association.

MSC assigns Japan/Asia-Australia service

Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC) has assigned a seventh vessel to its service between Japan/Asia and Australia.

The fleet build-up gives the Swiss shipping line room to pay a call at Tianjin Xingang in the service nicknamed the Wallaby Service.

The revised MSC service calls at Yokohama/Osaka /Pusan/ Tianjin/Shanghai/Chiwan/ Hong Kong/ Jakarta/ Singapore/ Fremantle/Adelaide/ Melbourne/ Sydney/ Brisbane/ Yokohama.

Rotation in the course of Hong Kong/Jakarta/ Singapore is subject to change.

Newly assisgned to the service is the 2,058-TEU MSC Indonesia, which left Pusan on Nov. ,7. The first MSC ship to call at Tianjin Xingang was the 1,928-TEU MSC Xingang.

The MSC service was inaugurated in August last year and was upgraded from a biweekly to a weekly service with six vessels three months later.

Taiwan seeks long-term coal supply

The state-run Taiwan Power Co. is seeking long-term coal supplies from China to diversify its import sources, a company official said.

Taiwan Power, for the first time, sent officials to inspect coal mines in China last month following approval from Taiwan's Economic Ministry to sign long-term contracts with Beijing, the official said. "Mainland China, the world's largest coal producer, has the competitive edge given the close distance between the two sides and the quite good quality of its coal," he said.

Taiwan Power has contracts with Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and the United States for long-term coal supplies, the official said.

In 1992, Taiwanese authorities allowed indirect coal imports from China with the volume limited to 20 per cent of Taiwan Power's annual consumption.

China also won a contract to sell the island-nation 830,000 tonnes of coal last year.

Pan Asia Bank welcomed in Kandy

Colombo Street, Kandy was a hive of excitement on Friday morning as everyone around prepared to witness the opening of Pan Asia Bank's first branch out of Colombo in Kandy. Keeping abreast with Kandyan traditions, once welcomed by CEO/ General Manager of the Bank, the chief guest, directors and invitees were led to the branch by a splendid, perahara watched by hundreds of onlookers and well-wishers who flocked the street to celebrate the occasion, says a news release.

Officials at the Bank were overwhelmed at the acceptance of the bank in Kandy, which is evident from customers who continue in numbers to place their trust in Sri Lanka's newest commercial, bank. The bank for their part reiterated its commitment to offer their customers a highly professional and personalised service at all times.

Duty free shopping from Browns

Brown & Co. :Ltd., opened their first Duty Free Shop in the Transit Lounge of the Departure Terminal recently, says a company release.

Suraj Fernando, Managing Director Browns, said that it was their intention to cater to the returning tourists, business travellers and expatriate employees of the Indian Sub-Continent who transit in Colombo on their return home.

"Our strategy is to make it more competitive pricewise and thus more attractive than the Duty Free shops at Dubai and Singapore, enabling the traveller to make his purchase without having to carry it all the way from the airport of his departure" explained Mr. Fernando .

The shop is fully stocked with the Sharp range of consumer electronics, office appliances, hand-held computers and small domestic appliances. In addition the full range of Moulinex home appliances, Olympus cameras, dictaphones, as well as a popular brand of pens and writing instruments are also available.

Browns who are the sole agents for Sharp, Olympus and Moulinex will offer travellers the facility of purchasing a product sold to them directly by the Agents, a facility that is not available even in the most popular Duty Free Complexes internationally.

Mr. Fernando also stated that they hoped to open yet another Duty Free shop in the arrival section shortly.

HongkongBank extends ATM Network

HongkongBank opened their latest ATM recently at 472, Koswatte Junction, Nawala Road, Rajagiriya, extending the convenience of round the clock banking to all its customers living in and around Nawala and its suburbs.

Other HongkongBank ATMs are located for customer convenience at all HongkongBank branches at Fort, Bambalapitiya, Wellawatte, Borella, Nugegoda, Pelawatte and Kandy. Off site ATMs are located at Liberty Plaza, Mount Lavinia and JAIC Hilton Tower, says a news release.

With HSBC's extensive network of over 370,000 ATMs in over 100 countries customers are able to access their accounts from any part of the world.

With more an 5,500 offices in over 79 countries and territories the HSBC Group is one of the world's largest banking and financial services organisations.

ANZ Bambalapitiya at new location

ANZ Grindlays' flagship branch, Bambalapitiya, is now on Duplication Road, adjoining Temple Lane.

It features a very modern, granite laid serving counter, a 24-hour ATM machine for the convenience of customers and dedicated underground car parking.

According to the branch manager, Ramani Gnanamuttu, "This wilI be very useful for customers who will now have the advantage of parking in the bank's premises if they need to obtain cash from the ATM machine."

The full range of the bank's products will be available from the branch. This includes current accounts, overdrafts, a range of investment products such as deposits for instance, foreign currency services, Executive package loans and international Visa and Master credit cards. Custodial services will also be available for the receipt, delivery and custody of funds.

The bank's special "Private Banking Unit" is also situated here and located on the first floor in a specially designed area. It is headed by Ramesh Wijetunge who offers high net worth personal banking customers an exclusive, one-to-one service.

This new branch represents another step taken by the ANZ Grindlays Bank in its strategy to offer its customers "a total relationship service". Clients however, can as usual use the unibanking network to operate their accounts from any branch.

The next major step by the bank will be taken in February, when the core computer system will be replaced to meet the requirements of the oncoming millenium.

According to Zulfiqar Zavahir, Assistant General Manager, Retail, "The bank has seen a number of changes over the last year. All these have been made to achieve our objective - which is to meet the challenges of the next decade. We are now more competitive and customer focused and deliver a much better product."

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