Tropical Salts – And ‘Salts’ – Kept Our Streets Safe This Winter

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BY MARK STAPLES/ You probably heard the late-winter news reports. After a dozen storms accompanied by the harsh temperatures of late 2013 and early 2014, supplies of rock salt used to treat Delaware and South Jersey roads during icy conditions were beginning to run out in many places.

One television news report featured a municipal official who said, “We probably have enough (salt), depending on what happens with the weather, but we’re waiting for a ship to come in with a fresh supply.” For this official, matters were getting rather dire.

Along the Delaware River, at least three Port of Philadelphia terminals welcomed ships bringing the region hundreds of tons of rock salt.

ROCK SALT from Brazil is funneled to a conveyor belt, the first step in its journey to make wintry roads safer for area motorists.

ROCK SALT from Brazil is funneled to a conveyor belt, the first step in its journey to make wintry roads safer for area motorists.


Welcoming the seamen aboard those ships was the Rev. William Rex, a Lutheran pastor on loan from Seafarers International House in New York City to Seamen’s Church Institute of Philadelphia & South Jersey.

Rev. Rex is an integral part of the mission to seafarers in Philadelphia. His work is made possible by the generosity of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He gets his visiting assignments from SCI.

Just prior to the last cold spell and snow blasting Delaware Valley and South Jersey, one badly needed delivery of rock salt took place at Riverside Terminal. The bulk carrier Clipper Belle, her five holds brimming with 28,000 tons of rock salt fresh from Brazil, was in its final of three days of offloading its welcome cargo.

Giant cranes aboard the ship were digging into each hold, extracting portions of the cargo, then lifting them to the dock where the heaping portions were dumped into large, dockside funnel-like receptacles. Each “funnel” load then was deposited on a long conveyor belt that carried the salt to an area where dump trucks were parked, awaiting their fill. The trucks then transported the salt to a loading zone growing more mountainous by the delivery – awaiting customer pickup.

The three-day operation had only one hitch, explained Gerold L. Golez, 38, the Master (captain) of the Clipper Belle, a two-year-old vessel owned by Clipperbulk of Denmark. In the middle of the operation, the conveyor belt broke down. The repairs took half a day, and, as with a breakdown of any kind, the lost time is costly for all concerned.

LUTHERAN Chaplain William Rex with Clipper Belle 1st Engineer Ramon Hicarte of Manila in the Philippines. Rex runs errands for crewmembers detained aboard ship, one of many gestures of hospitality.

LUTHERAN Chaplain William Rex with Clipper Belle 1st Engineer Ramon Hicarte of Manila in the Philippines. Rex runs errands for crewmembers detained aboard ship, one of many gestures of hospitality.


Golez and 1st Engineer Ramon Hicarte, key leaders for the Belle’s 21-member all-Filipino crew, admitted they are not familiar, as Philadelphians are, with how all these tons of rock salt find their way to area roads, saving lives in the process. In the mountainous resort town of Baguio City on the Island of Luzon, the temperature seldom dips below 60 degrees, Golez said. In the Philippines, snowfall is not an issue.

As the tons of rock salt were being offloaded, Golez was a liaison between crewmembers and Rev. Rex concerning various kinds of electronics crewmembers hoped to purchase. The crewmembers could not go ashore to buy the goods themselves because all but two of them were detained aboard ship, and because of tight security measures they could not even step out onto the dock.

So Rev. Rex did the shopping. When crew members are permitted ashore, Rev. Rex and other Seamen’s Church Institute chaplains and visitors escort them to shopping points like Walmart, Best Buy or an Apple Store.

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