Monday, 8 January 2024, 18:09
The port of Torrevieja in Alicante province has seen a clear increase in activity recently. In just two weeks, three large-tonnage vessels have entered the salt quay. The sodium chloride from Torrevieja is in high demand at this time of year when northern Europe is shivering, with temperatures in Scandinavia reaching 20 degrees below zero in the main cities. These countries do not want to be cut off, their roads need salt and one of the ports that can supply it in the most efficient and urgent manner is that of Torrevieja.
Laguna Rosa, a nature reserve with a 'pink' salt lake near Torrevieja, is owned by the Spanish government and operated under concession by the company Nueva Compañía Arrendataria de las Salinas de Torrevieja (Ncast), part of the French group Salins. The industrial director of the Torrevieja complex, Joseph Pérez, stated that these last few days have seen frenetic activity at the Poniente quay, also known as the salt quay in the port. From the shores of the lake, huge quantities of the mineral are being conveyed to the port, mainly destined for England, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Sweden and Finland, as well as Iceland, where 16,000 tonnes have already been shipped in just two vessels.
Pérez estimates that around 150,000 tonnes will be exported this year, the majority this winter. "They tend to be very similar every year, but this year we do expect it to be somewhat higher than last year, around 15,000 or 20,000 tonnes more. The same as we can load in a week," Pérez pointed out.
The rate of arrivals at the port is proof of this. "This week three ships have been loaded; last Friday the last one was loaded and three more are expected to arrive next week." On call and on demand, always ready to attend to any unforeseen event in the form of a storm thousands of kilometres to the north, is how they are used to working in the saltworks.
Fortunately, Torrevieja has an advantage that other ports do not have: its own facilities. With a specific quay for loading salt, the ships do not have to wait to be positioned and for their turn to load, but are attended to immediately. Only when several vessels arrive in port at the same time, as has been the case in recent days, do they have to wait. In that case, they will spend at most one day anchored outside the port area.
Despite working to diversify their clientele, 80 per cent of the salt exported from Torrevieja, Pérez asid, continues to be for de-icing roads, 60% of the total sold. This same use at a national level is being less common. "We are loading lorries, but much fewer than normal." The difference is especially large in comparison with when Storm Filomena hit Spain in 2021. Then, according to Pérez, the maximum amount of salt sold for de-icing roads in Spain was recorded.
If Filomena were to repeat itself, the response capacity of the Torrevieja salt pans would be the same, given that, according to the director, there are currently some 300,000 tonnes available. "In Spain, a normal winter only needs around 30,000 or 40,000 tonnes."
On a climatological level, moreover, the perfect conditions have combined to increase the amount of salt, unlike in previous years when the intrusion of fresh water after episodes of torrential rains has reduced the quantity.
"The salt marshes need sun and wind, and this year we have had both," he said.
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