Getting a grip of efficient road salt shipping

Dave Lee, Contracts Manager at Irish Salt Mining, sets out the fine margins involved in the transport of salt for road treatment and why an efficient supply chain is vital.

For many people headlines such as ‘Beast from the East’ or ‘Snowmageddon’ are really depressing; not us though! We live for winter weather and if it’s not snow we’ll be perfectly happy with freezing wet. 

Of course, being so reliant on Mother Nature, we have to be very well prepared for extreme and short-notice fluctuations in demand. For example, our Glasgow warehouse handled over 200,000 tonnes in 2017/2018 as opposed to less than 90,000 the previous year.

Another factor we need to manage is that road salt is a low value commodity with extremely fine margins. It doesn’t make economic sense to ship it too far.

Fortunately, we’ve been producing road salt from our mine in Northern Ireland since 1965. So we know what we’re doing and we’re helped by some great supply chain partners.

For more than 40 of those years we’ve worked with the Peel Ports Clydeport team. Much of our product goes to Scotland where we have service contracts with 15 local authorities and various private road contractors from our storage facility in KGV.

To help us respond quickly to demand, we operate our own jetty on the entrance of Belfast Lough, which means we can have salt at the King George V (KGV) terminal ready for distribution within 12 hours of leaving our shores. 

The team at KGV are well versed with the demands we ask of them.  Whether that’s lightening vessels in Hunterston before bringing them up the Clyde, late notice ships (maybe even no notice – sorry!), or bombarding them with phone calls when there’s snow on the ground and stock is low.

I can’t stress enough the help we get from operations team there, with an exceptional approach that’s based on flexibility and reliability.

KGV’s location is really important too. Being inland it allows us to reduce the cost per tonne significantly through maximising sea transport. We rent a shed there, allowing us to keep a buffer of 28,000 tonnes, which is usually enough to buy some time when the mercury drops suddenly.

From our shed, we then distribute the product with our contractor JW Morrison Haulage, another supplier who really understands how we need to work to keep Scotland’s roads safe.

To find out more on Clydeport and its capabilities, click HERE.

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