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NewPage starts shutdown

October 13, 2009
By Jenny Lancour

ESCANABA - Some employees from Escanaba's NewPage are taking time off beginning this week because of major maintenance at the mill that coincides with a corporation-wide downtime caused by poor market conditions, officials announced.

NewPage Corporation announced Monday its plans to take approximately 160,000 tons of market-related downtime in the fourth quarter of 2009. This includes employee layoffs and the shutting down of some paper-making machines.

According to Kel Smyth, government and community affairs manager at NewPage in Escanaba, the maintenance outage was planned locally in conjunction with corporation's downtime plan.

"All three paper machine systems, the refiner mechanical pulp mill, the roll wrapper and woodyard will be down during this outage," Smyth said in a news release issued today. "Employees who are not assigned work during the outage will take vacation, unpaid time off or unemployment."

Shut down of equipment began Sunday and will begin coming back up next Sunday, he said. He did not know the number of employees not working because of the maintenance shutdown.

"All systems are expected to be back in operation on Monday, Oct. 19, with papermaking returning to normal over the course of the day," Smyth stated.

The primary maintenance work will center on the kraft pulping and recovery operations, he explained. Work is planned throughout the mill including the boiler systems and the wastewater treatment plant, he said.

In addition to cleaning equipment, maintenance work includes replacing parts, upgrading machinery, and conducting equipment inspections, Smyth said.

"Extensive safety training has been part of the planning for this outage," Smyth added.

"Plans are in place to minimize associated noise and odor. However, it is not unusual for noise or odor to occur during start-up and shutdown activities," he said.

A majority of the local mill's 1,100 employees were off for a 10-day period last April. The shutdown was due to a decreasing consumer demand for coated paper produced at the plant.

Another 10-day shutdown, scheduled for last May, was later cancelled because of an increased demand for coated paper.

According to a press release on the NewPage Web site, specific operating and shutdown plans this time around are being developed across the NewPage mill system to best satisfy customer commitments.

"We continue to operate in a very challenging environment, and remain committed to running our operations efficiently as we balance production and demand," said Rick Willett, president and chief executive officer for NewPage Corporation.

In addition to the poor economy, NewPage and other U.S. coated paper manufacturers have struggled competing with low-priced imports coming into the U.S. from China and Indonesia.

NewPage and other U.S. paper producers and the United Steelworkers recently filed anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases covering certain types of coated paper being imported from China and Indonesia in violation of international trade rules, according to NewPage's Web site.

"We are hopeful that the trade cases will restore a level playing field in the market for coated papers," Willett stated.

NewPage owns paper mills in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, and Nova Scotia, Canada. Total annual production capacity of these mills is approximately 4.4 million tons of paper. This includes approximately 3.2 million tons of coated paper, approximately 1.0 million tons of uncoated paper and approximately 200,000 tons of specialty paper.

NewPage Corporation is the largest coated paper manufacturer in North America, based on production capacity, with $4.4 billion in net sales.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net

 
 

 

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