With supplies of road salt almost completely used up after the snow and sleet that fell earlier this week, the New Jersey Department of Transportation got some very welcome news Wednesday -- a huge shipment of salt is arriving at Port Newark from South America.

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"A shipment from International (Salt) is what everyone, not only NJDOT but counties and municipalities, private sector customers, they've been waiting for," said DOT spokesman Joe Dee.

He said no one is exactly sure how much salt is being transported.

"Every load of salt we can get into Newark is a good thing," Dee said. "They carry varying amounts, so I've heard of loads of 20,000 to 60,000 tons, so I don't know what is arriving."

Dee stressed that not all of the salt being delivered by International Salt, the state's main supplier, will go to the DOT.

"They will divide the salt up among its customers," Dee said. "We are one of the big customers for International, so we'll get a good share of the salt. This is good news but again, we are not going to rest until we have salt in our salt domes throughout the state."

Once the ship arrives at the port, Dee explained, it will take several days to unload, and more time for the salt to be delivered to DOT hubs across the state.

Meanwhile, two additional shipments are due to arrive in New Jersey next week. One of them will come from Maine, where 40,000 tons of rock salt is sitting in a port. DOT officials thought they'd be granted a special waiver to allow a foreign ship to transport that salt down to Port Newark, but federal officials turned down that request for unexplained reasons.

A barge capable of towing 9,500 tons of salt will arrive in Maine at the end of this week, load up as much salt as possible, and then return to the Garden State, probably by next Monday or Tuesday.

"Barges are flat-bottomed," said Dee. "They're not as sea-worthy as a ship, so if they need to take shelter in a port during a storm, they'll do that."

A second shipment of salt from South America, transported by International Salt, is expected to arrive in New Jersey by the middle of next week.