By Leo Quigley, AJOT
Barbed wire changed the face of The West, from wide open plains to neat packages framed by ‘The Devil’s Rope’ that imprisoned horses, cattle and cowboys.
Much of the barbed wire produced one hundred years ago is still manufactured today by Bekaert, a Belgium-based international firm with 95 manufacturing plants worldwide. However, like most things today, barbed wire has been improved. Bekaert’s modern barbed wire, called Gaucho, weighs half as much as yesterday’s barbed wire with the same strength, and comes with twice the galvanization to prevent rusting.
Launched by Leo Leander Bekaert in 1880, the manufacturer of steel wire, steel wire products, and steel cord advanced materials ventured into the North American marketplace in the 1970s, buoyed by the use of steel cord for reinforcing rubber products, particularly radial tires.
The firm prides itself on taking maximum advantage of opportunities for growth in fast-growing niche markets.
With plants worldwide, and 95 in the United States alone, the largest located in Van Buren, Arkansas, the Bekaert plant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Titan Steel & Wire Ltd. may not be the company’s flagship. It is, however a highly productive importer of steel from Asia and a supplier of a dozen or more wire products throughout North America and Asia.
Located on the Fraser River and sharing dock space with Fraser Surrey Docks Ltd., Titan Steel & Wire imports about 50,000 tons of steel rod annually from offshore which is manufactured into steel wire, some coated with zinc or aluminum.
‘We do seven wire strand that is used in such things as holding up telephone poles or cable vision lines,’ said Bob Nanson, Plant Manager. ‘We also make ACSR wire that is aluminum core, steel reinforced wire or cable that is used to carry electricity.
‘Our part of that is to make the steel part. We are the strength. We hold it together,’ he said. ‘Other people will finish off the cable and wrap aluminum around our steel wire or cable,’ he said. ‘That is what is used to carry electricity.’
Another specialty product turned out by Titan Steel and Wire is PC Strand, a pre-stressed wire used to reinforce concrete beams.
‘Concrete beams always use this material,’ Nanson said. ‘Without it the beam would fall down.’
Other products, called merchant products, consist of such things as barbed wire.
‘The fences we make are high tensile fences, not chain link,’ he said. ‘We’re making fences that are used to contain animals.’
Titan Steel and Wire’s market is primarily the Pacific Northwest. ‘Out of the 50,000 tons imported, probably 60% stays in Canada,’ he said. A large percentage goes to the US and roughly 15%t goes to the East Coast.
‘The rod comes in by boat,’ Nanson said. ‘It’s offloaded onto Fraser Surrey Docks and they bring it across onto our property. That’s a fairly efficient way of getting rod to our steel mill.’
‘Most of what we ship out of here goes out by truck. Some travels by rail, but the predominance would be by truck. Rail transport, usually on BNSF or CN Rail, is shipped as piggy-back cargo.
‘If it’s going overseas it would go by boat in containers. Any steel we ship overseas goes in containers. It’s usually a galvanized product. It’s usually shipped in smaller units,
Nanson said Titan Steel & Wire has ‘had some success’ marketing its products in Asia.
‘Some of it is more exotic wire. If you look at strand, ACSR is more difficult to make than guy strand because of lengths of very particular strength, elongations are very particular ’ specifications are tighter. The same thing happens to wire. If wire’s being used for chain link, then anybody can make it. Length is not an issue, you can weld it together. But, when you get into optic fiber reinforcing cables it’s much more exotic.
‘When they wrap their optic fibers around your wire, they don’t