Chatham Saw Mill
On March 10, 1858, HMS Samiramis carrying the first batch of mutineers and other convicts lead by Dr. James Patterson Walker, anchors in the strait between what would later come to be known as Hope Town and Chatham Island…
The historic Chatham Island has a Saw Mill by the name Chatham Saw Mill lying on the tiny island connected by a bridge over a stretch of sea-water. This Saw Mill is one of the biggest and oldest in Asia. It is still using the machinery set up initially by the British for wood processing.
This historic mill was established in 1883 with the primary objective to meet the local requirements of sawn timber for the constructional works. The machines initially installed were second hand and operated with unskilled manpower available at that time. Unfortunately during the Second World War, the mill was destroyed badly by the direct hit of bombs, paralyzing its working completely.
However, after the Second World War, the mill was revived in mid forties and fifties by salvaging the old machinery to meet the continued need of sawn timber of the islanders. So much so, this requirement of sawn timber of the Islanders further increased manifold after the settlement of people from erstwhile East Pakistan, Srilanka and Burma etc. in these islands.
Objectives and Activities:
The majority of good quality logs are consumed by the wood based industries and the remaining logs which may contain knots, shakes, splits and sponges etc. are brought to the govt. Saw Mill Chatham for production of sawn timber where utmost possible extent of good quality sawn timber is salvaged to meet the requirements of local public, furniture marts as well as govt. departments for various public works. Besides, the premier timber of Andamans “the Andaman Padauk” is handled by govt. Saw Mill only.
The initial annual log intake capacity of the mill was around 20000 cub m., but to the lesser availability of logs due to various reasons, the mill is presently consuming around 12000 –13000 cub mtr. of logs, annually. Presently, the annual production of sawn timber of Chatham saw mill ranges between 5000 to 6000 cub m. of which, more than 90% is sold locally at the price fixed by the Andaman and Nicobar Administration on year to year basis.
However, the balance quantity of sawn timber which is not consumed locally is shipped to Chennai and Calcutta Govt. Depots for disposal by auction. The present annual average turnover of the Chatham saw mill is around Rs. 6 crores.
Organizational Setup and Administration:
The Mill complex is under the charge of a Deputy Conservator of Forests assisted by one Production Manger on the production side, one Asst. Mill Manger on sales side, one Asst. Constructional engineer on civil works, one superintendent Timber Treatment Plant on the timber Treatment preservation side. One saw filer in the sawn doctoring unit, one Range Officer on the log receipts side and one Range Officer on sawn timber sale side.
Besides, there is a Security Officer assisted by Security Inspector and Watch and Ward Staff to look after the security in the respect of Chatham Saw Mill. There is a small dispensary, which is looked after by a medical officer and his paramedical staff. A labor welfare officer looks after the welfare of the workers.
At present around a thousand numbers of industrial ministerial and executive staffs are working in the Chatham Saw Mill and are dependent for their livelihood on this mill. Although the unit is called as ‘Chatham Saw Mill’, it actually is a Saw Mill Complex having the following branches:
1. Log Depot - Deals with raw material (logs)
2. Saw Mill - Deals with the conversion of logs.
3. Saw Doctoring - Deals with the maintenance of Saw Blades.
4. Timber Yard - Storing and sales of sawn timber
5. Sale counter, Vijay Baugh. - Sale of Sawn Timber on retail basis to individual consumers.
6. Mechanical Workshop - Look after all machinery and attends to mechanical work of other divisions also.
7. Electrical Unit - Looks after electrical works of the mill and maintains the electricity supply of entire Chatham Island. It also maintains the stand by generator (248 kw) of the Mill and attends to electrical works of other divisions also.
8. Marine Workshop - Maintains the marine crafts of the division.
9. Building Construction Unit - Maintains all the building and Jetties of Forest Department in Chatham.
10. Timber Treatment Unit - Treatment of timber both chemically and by Seasoning (about 600 cum each annually)
11. Wood Workshop - Makes furniture required for Forest Department and concentrates on utilizing ill waste to the possible extend.
12. Vanakriti - Sale counter for Wooden Souvenirs and Handicrafts Items made out of Padauk and other Ornamental Woods of Andamans
13. Department Canteen - Caters to Mill workers with nutritious diet at concession rates (a statutory obligation also).
14. Chatham Dispensary - Provides First aid services to Mill workers (A statutory obligation also).
15. Forest Labor Club - Gives recreational facilities to workers.
16. Security Wing - Looks after the security of the Mill Division.
The historic Chatham Saw Mill is open daily to tourists from 6.30 am to 2.30 pm everyday except Sunday and public holidays.
Read more: History of Civilization in Andamans - A New Human Saga Is Born
Stats courtesy: Department of Forests, A & N Administration.