New Jersey Can't Get Its Road Salt Because a Ship Is Missing a Flag

Illustration for article titled New Jersey Can't Get Its Road Salt Because a Ship Is Missing a Flag

Forty-thousand tons of rock salt meant for New Jersey's icy roads is currently banned from so much as entering the Port of Newark. The reason? A nearly century-old maritime law that requires shipping vessels to fly the American flag. Naturally.

This winter has been particularly brutal on the Northeast, which has been hit by snowstorm after snowstorm with barely any time to catch its breath in between. It follows that the winter has also been brutal on the Northeast's stockpile of rock salt, which is running in dangerously short supply. The (apparently still strictly enforced) federal law from 1920, however, stands firm. Flag or GTFO.


The traitorous vessel still has a chance to dock on New Jersey's shore if it's granted a waiver to the Merchant Marine Act from the federal government—but that probably won't happen. As State Department of Transportation Spokesman Joe Dee told the Washington Free Beacon, "We were pursuing a waiver, but we've been advised we wouldn't get one. It seems unlikely we will get it."

In the likely case that a waiver isn't offered, the rock salt will have to be moved onto "slower-moving barges" as it waits for the next available ship that meets federal restrictions (read: has flag). According to, that ship would take weeks to arrive.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop did receive 500 tons of salt Monday, which although better than nothing, is not quite the 800 tons the city uses during a typical storm. While we realize official US flags are symbolic of the (more important) registered nation of origin, there should really be some leniency in times of crisis. Someone on that ship has to have some construction paper. [New York Daily News]

Image: Shutterstock/spirit of america


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Point of clarification: The ship must be US-flagged when shipping from one US port to another US port. This restriction does not apply on imports from another country. The ship in question already docked in Maine, so it's technically already imported, so moving it to New Jersey runs afoul of this old law. Hopefully they can cut some red tape and get that waiver.

Failing that, ship it up to Newfoundland and then to New Jersey, maybe?

And it's referring to the registration of the ship, which is not as simple as buying a flag at a hardware store.