Several newsworthy developments this past week reinforce my opinion that our supply problems are only getting worse. And the ability to procure foreign-sourced materials prior to the start of Winter 2021-22 is only becoming more difficult.
Let me try to connect the dots for you (in no particular order). The majority of the following points came from a variety of news outlets.
- There is a very high probability of an Israel-Iran shooting war. Not just proxies, but straight out at each other. The recent Iranian drone attack on an Israeli oil tanker in international waters in the Gulf of Oman that killed the British Captain and Romanian first mate has amped up Israel significantly. Obviously, a shooting war in the Persian Gulf would have far reaching economic effects, and particularly so on oil with Keystone Pipeline shut down. Would the Suez Canal remain open in a war?
- China has widespread Corona virus throughout their ports, and many are disrupted or closed. So, consider all of the components in our everyday lives that come from China, and you begin to get a picture of the long-reaching impact. I worry about getting anything from steel cutting edges on plows to truck, pump, and applicator parts. Equipment employed in snow and ice management breaks and snow professionals need spare and repair parts, many of which come from China or contain vital components manufactured in China.
- The continued container congestion is worsening, prices are skyrocketing, and there is no end in sight.
The ocean shipping situation has driven up prices and limited vessel availability for bulk salt shipped by sea from anywhere on the planet.
- The Morton buy-out has already disrupted salt in significant ways as 120 people from Morton's HQ were canned recently and the new owner tries to find its footing with an explosion in business. It's placing some very heavy-handed demands on the private market. For example, they are requiring 40 percent of your winter salt contract must be taken by December 31 irrespective of weather and demand. Even if it doesn’t snow, contractors are required to take 40 percent of their “contract” by December 31 and 80 percent by March 31 again no matter what the weather. Likely, this is not a big deal for most municipalities since they can store a lot of salt. However, private contractors cannot stockpile in massive quantities, and they are going to get hit hard by this new policy.
I see a lot of potential trouble for our industry on the horizon and if there is a Middle East shooting war between Israel and Iran, then oil will go beyond out-of-sight in price and we could see allocations.
Certainly, good times on the horizon (tongue in cheek).
Snow Magazine contributing editor Robert S. English is President of Chemical Solutions, Inc., Franklin, MA. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.