OGDENSBURG Salt shortages across New York and Canada sent an unprecedented number of trucks Monday to the Port of Ogdensburg.
To my knowledge this has never happened in the history of the port, Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Executive Director Wade A. Davis said Monday. Its truly an exciting week for the Port of Ogdensburg and Northern New York.
Hundreds of trucks came to the port over the weekend and waited throughout the day Monday from the Port Access Road through Ford Street for their turn to collect road salt. The line caused traffic congestion on Ford Street Extension, as trucks were backed all the way out to Route 37.
The congestion is likely to continue until Thursday, port Director of Operations Steven J. Lawrence said.
There have been a greater amount of people than we ever had, so I didnt know what to expect at first, but so far it has gone smoothly, Mr. Lawrence said. Its been a little bit of a burden to the local truckers who arent used to this kind of delay, so we are trying to accommodate them as best we can.
Despite traffic hassles, the increased volume is good news for the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, Mr. Davis said.
This really helps to increase the relevance and reach of the Port of Ogdensburg, he said. Were seeing for the first time trucks coming from the city of New York and Buffalo. The New York City Department of Sanitation alone has ordered 15,000 tons.
Trucks from as far away as Toronto also have come to collect salt, Mr. Davis said.
Typically, each tractor-trailer hauls between 32 and 36 tons, while smaller trailers hold about 20 tons, Mr. Lawrence said.
Logistically, the port has not had to make any changes to handle the extra volume, Mr. Lawrence said.
The port authority has been prepared for increased output since before Decembers ice storm. The port leased an extra loader from Tracey Road Equipment Inc., Watertown, before the storm, Mr. Lawrence said.
Weve accommodated St. Lawrence County and local townships as needed, he said. Weve worked a couple of weekends and extended hours to meet their needs.
Mr. Lawrence also created a shortcut last summer to give trucks faster access through the port from the main access road.
The salt is shipped from three major companies and distributed from the port. Mr. Davis credited competing incentives and restructuring five-year contracts with salt companies for the increase in truck volume.
We need to remember this access road came about because of (Gov. Andrew M. Cuomos) leadership, Mr. Davis said. The state of New York and everybody here in the north country advocated for this. Without this access road, we wouldnt have the scales and all these folks would be backed up the width of Paterson Street.
Frederick S. Morrill, OBPA deputy executive director and chief financial officer, said the port had nearly 200,000 tons of salt at the start of the season. On average, between 120,000 and 160,000 tons are shipped to the port each year.
More than 115,000 tons have been distributed so far, which is highly unusual, Mr. Morrill said.
Were thinking there wont be any left over come spring, Mr. Morrill said. Normally, we have a little bit of carryover.
The financial payback as a result of the increased volume has yet to be determined, but Mr. Morrill said the ports future looks bright.
I think what this really foretells is that there will be more ships this summer, he said. It shows that the ships are coming and volume incentives are working. I think the offshoot of that will mean more work and more people.
The OBPA had a record seven salt shipments last year, Mr. Morrill said. That number is likely to increase this year based on the overwhelming demand for salt.
The port currently employs 67 longshoremen who are called in as needed, and a full-time staff of 27, Mr. Davis said.
Employment is the real focus here, because in the absence of us being able to handle this project, none of these folks would be at work here today, Mr. Davis said.