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Party planners brought down to earth due to helium shortage

What a let-down: a shortage of helium gas has hit party balloon vendors (Photograph supplied)

Vendors of party supplies have been feeling deflated because of a shortage of helium on the island.

Among its many uses, the lighter-than-air gas is used to inflate party balloons.

But a “perfect storm” of global events has created a shortage of the valuable natural gas.

The US has put a ceiling on exports in an attempt to shore up reserves, while supplies from elsewhere have also been cut off.

Alicia Virgil, owner of the party accessory store Party Central, in Hamilton, said: “It’s definitely hurting business because balloons are a very quick ‘pick-up’ item.

“It’s a shame because people want to have balloons for their special celebrations and I’m having to turn customers away.”

Another store that provides party supplies – La Petite Soiree – had a banner message across the top of its website that stated: “We are experiencing a helium shortage. Please order balloons ‘not inflated’.”

The Bermuda Weather Service is also having to cut back on the number of data-gathering balloons it sends up into the atmosphere.

Mark Guishard, the BWS director, said “It’s something that we’re conscious of and planning for.

“The number of balloons we launch can vary. Typically it’s one a day, but during hurricane season we can launch hundreds.

“They’re used to gather data that can be input into our computer models – the more we put up, the more data we gather and the more accurate the forecast.

“The forecast is for settled weather under high pressure over the next few days, so we don’t have any concerns about any reduction in the number of balloon launches at the moment.”

Malcolm Simons, co-owner of Bermuda Bulk Gases, said that US exporters had cut back on overseas shipments by more than one third in recent weeks.

He said: “We had a delivery at the end of April of just 13 canisters – that’s about half of what we could normally expect to get in. They were all sold within two days.”

Supplies from the US have been cut in part because the US Bureau of Land Management’s crude helium enrichment unit – which upgrades the purity of crude helium – has been forced to shut down.

Mr Simons added: “The US Bureau of Land Management can cap the amount that companies are allowed to export, which they are now having to do.

“In addition, production out of Qatar has also slowed because their helium plants have had to close for maintenance.”

Mr Simons said that the war between Russia and Ukraine had exacerbated the crisis because Russia could no longer be relied upon to supply other parts of the world.

He said: “It’s created a perfect storm.

“I know that our party supply customers are upset at the moment, but it’s not just in Bermuda, it’s the world over.”

Mr Simons said he had contacted a second supplier and hoped to have another consignment delivered at the end of next week.

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Published May 14, 2022 at 7:25 am (Updated May 14, 2022 at 7:25 am)

Party planners brought down to earth due to helium shortage

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