Road salt stranded at Maine port begins making its way to New Jersey

Tons of rock salt sits piled up at the Sprague Energy Terminal at Mack Point in Searsport Tuesday.  The salt is awaiting the arrival of a barge to bring it down to New Jersey. The expected snowstorm is likely to delay the arrival of the barge, according to an official from Sprague Energy, which owns the port.
Tons of rock salt sits piled up at the Sprague Energy Terminal at Mack Point in Searsport Tuesday. The salt is awaiting the arrival of a barge to bring it down to New Jersey. The expected snowstorm is likely to delay the arrival of the barge, according to an official from Sprague Energy, which owns the port. Buy Photo
Posted Feb. 25, 2014, at 1:11 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 26, 2014, at 5:45 a.m.

SEARSPORT, Maine — New Jersey’s crucially important 40,000 tons of road salt has started to arrive in the Garden State after spending weeks marooned at a port in Maine.

The first barge piled high with salt left the Mack Point Marine Intermodal Cargo Terminal in Searsport on Friday morning and likely reached its final destination Monday morning to unload, Jim Therriault of Sprague Energy said Tuesday.

“Our understanding is that this barge is coming back up to pick up another load,” he said.

The salt’s successful journey south may mark the end of an eventful month for New Jersey, where a Department of Transportation spokesman two weeks ago said that the state had a critical shortage of rock salt to spread on its roads. So far this season, more severe winter storms than usual have meant that the state has used nearly twice as much salt as it did last winter.

In mid-February, New Jersey even attempted to get a waiver of the federal Jones Act, the longstanding law which requires cargo transported between two American ports to be carried by American vessels. That effort was unsuccessful because New Jersey would have had to prove the waiver was necessary for national defense and that no U.S. vessels were available, according to the Maritime Executive, a shipping trade journal.

A foreign vessel, the Anastasia S., had been in Searsport delivering another cargo for a different customer around the middle of the month but had left the port by the time New Jersey filed its waiver request, according to the Maritime Executive. Its captain also had not confirmed that the vessel owners would have transported the salt.

“In fact, many vessel owners will not transport salt, a highly corrosive cargo,” the Maritime Executive wrote. “Transport of salt can require an extra ship cleaning that is time-consuming and expensive for the vessel owner. As such, shipping salt can be complex.”

The salt in Maine is owned by Pennsylvania-based International Salt Co., which transports it from Chile to the cargo terminal where it is stockpiled for the season. The New Jersey Department of Transportation is responsible for moving the salt the state contracted to buy from “point A to point B,” a company spokesperson said earlier in February.

Workers in Maine toiled overnight Thursday in snowy, sleety weather to load the barge. According to Therriault, transit speed for open barges is highly weather-dependant. He said that Mack Point officials are expecting the barge to return to Maine to reload either Friday, Feb. 27 or Saturday, Feb. 28.

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