As a continuation to the Finnish-Chilean cooperation in forestry, which started in 1991, two Finnish researchers visited Chile in late 1993. Data was collected on logging conditions and methods, organisation of forest operations as well as on the Chilean experiences in using advanced logging equipment in Chilean conditions. In addition a work study was carried out for a harvester and a forwarder.
In some 20 years Chile has become an important forestry country. Forest plantations, which consist mainly of Radiata pine and eucalypts, cover at the moment some 1.6 million hectares with the annual cut of some 14 million cubic metres. Many of the plantations are still young, and it is estimated that the total harvestable volume in the plantations will reach 35 million cubic metres annually by the year 2020.
Plantations are situated in the Coastal Mountains, Central Valley and the foothills of the Andes in the lower central part of the country. Some 30 percent of the plantations are on hillsides with a slope steeper than 35 percent.
Forest management practices in radiata plantations vary from pulpwood production with 18-year rotation to production of pruned sawlogs with 24-year rotation. The average tree size at the final felling ranges from 0.3 to 1.5 m3, respectively. The total volume at the final felling is some 400 m3/ha in both cases, but in sawlog production on better sites some 100-150 m3 have then already been removed in thinnings.
For the time being trees are generally cut by chainsaw operators, although there are some ten feller-bunchers and about 20 harvesters in the country. Forest transport of timber is carried out with oxen, skidders, forwarders and cable systems.
Since 1991 there has been some harvesters operating in the country. The use of harvesters was initiated by some companies to reduce the alarming accident rates in the country. So far a very low accident rates have been reported in these mechanised operations. By using harvesters and forwarders the harvesting costs have been reduced by 20percent and harvesting has been carried out with less damage to the environment.
According to some companies the learning process of the operators was faster than originally estimated. It has also been possible to operate harvesters and forwarders on steeper slopes than anticipated. Mechanised harvesting has reduced the need for transportation of personnel and supplies. The cooperation between the machine manufacturers and the operating companies has been reported as fruitful.
A work study of a harvester and a forwarder was carried out in Chilean conditions. The harvester study consisted of 857 trees.
The results of the harvester study show that there is very little difference between the machine's performance in Chile and in Finland taking the tree size into account. Work quality was, however, lower in Chile. The average productivity was 30m3 per effective operating hour (excluding delays). The average tree size was 0.5 m3.
In forwarding the average productivity, 16.5 m3 per effective operating hour (excluding delays) with the average transport distance of 135 m, was lower when compared to Finnish studies. The loading and unloading speed of the Chilean operators was lower due to limited work experience, the relatively bad presentation of the assortments and the shorter pulpwood length. The size of the load was, again, smaller in Chile than in Finland thus reducing the performance.
Conclusions and recommendations
The heavy input in the development of forestry and the favourable climatic conditions for forestry will soon double the amount of wood to be harvested annually. In order to be able to cope with the increased work load both improved traditional working methods and considerable mechanisation of forest harvesting will be needed.
The companies would need logging instructors to point out the importance of safe and effective working techniques as well as that of general safety precautions. In a long run a vocational training scheme for forest workers should be established. Better planning and work organisation could improve both security and productivity in harvesting operations.
In the Nordic countries one of the largest steps in increasing the productivity of chainsaw operators and forwarders was the introduction of 5 m random length pulpwood. The increase in productivity is some 15 to 20 percent in comparison to 2 to 3 m pulpwood. At the same time the wood recovery becomes more efficient. A prerequisite for the introduction of this new assortment is the capability of mills and trucks to handle this size of pulpwood. Introduction of new sawlog dimensions instead of the standard 4.15 m and its multiples and taking the log quality aspects into consideration would significantly increase lumber recovery and quality in sawmilling. In mechanised operations, Chilean experience shows that through high productivity, working in shifts and high mechanical availability the unit costs of harvesters and forwarders can be kept competitive in comparison with traditional, low-investment systems even in countries where the labour costs are significantly lower than e.g. in the Nordic countries. In thinnings, it is likely that the use of chainsaw operators and forwarders and the 5 m random length pulpwood would prove a feasible alternative in Chilean conditions.
On steep slopes a viable alternative is to transport undelimbed trees with cable systems and process the trees with excavator-mounted processors at the landing.
It is only the forest industries companies and the largest contractors that can afford to purchase the expensive equipment at the moment. To push the mechanisation forward, the forest industry companies could acquire the equipment and hire such persons as operators who could become independent contractors after a couple of years of practice. In general, training of forestry workers, both chainsaw operators and machine operators, is one of the major bottlenecks to be tackled in the Chilean forestry sector.
Key words: Chile, plantation forests, logging, shortwood method, harvester, forwarder, Pinus radiata
Publisher: Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla)
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