The vessel Esprit Lotus spent most of the weekend loading an estimated 23,000 tonnes of woodchips at Port Chalmers before departing on Monday morning for China.
The Esprit Lotus' load was credited as the 126th woodchip export vessel to depart Port Chalmers since the trade began 35 years ago, according to ODT shipping columnist Doug Wright.
South Wood Ltd spokesman Graeme Manley was contacted yesterday and described the global woodchip market as "quiet", being in cyclical downturn at present.
Wood markets around the globe have weakened markedly.
City Forests' joint-venture softwood-chipping plant had its operations temporarily suspended six months ago and, separately, Dunedin's only sawmill, Otago Lumber Ltd, is restructuring its operations after having problems marketing its woodchips.
Otago Lumber chairman Harold Hill said in a statement on restructuring earlier in the week that while a question mark remained over where its woodchips would be sold, "a number of potentially promising options were being pursued".
Mr Manley hoped there would be more export opportunities to China, where, as in Japan, the chips are processed for pulp then paper-making.
Because of a stockpile of woodchips in Japan, exports from New Zealand have been held back in recent months. The pile at Port Chalmers grew to 25,000 tonnes and a second stockpile of about 6000 tonnes was started at Burnside.
Mr Manley had spoken to the Ministry for Primary Industries and understood the export to China from Port Chalmers was a first, and might have been a first for the country.
He said the Burnside stockpile would be taken to Port Chalmers, where there was about 2000 tonnes left over, and a "half load" of about 20,000-25,000 tonnes might be exported to Japan in January. In the past, up to six vessels a year have loaded chips at Port Chalmers.