Photo Credit: Export containers are loaded onto a Yang Ming vessel at the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal. The Georgia Ports Authority is moving cargo at a rate of more than 6 million twenty-foot equivalent container units per year. (Georgia Ports Authority / Stephen Morton)
In its busiest month ever, the Georgia Ports Authority handled 575,513 twenty-foot equivalent container units in August, an increase of 18.5 percent or 89,918 TEUs over the same month last year.
“The Port of Savannah’s geographic and capacity advantages remain a driving force behind current and new customers deciding to move cargo through Georgia,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “Our central location, and service through the largest container terminal in the Western Hemisphere offers speed to market and unmatched room to grow.”
Counting the July volume of 530,800 TEUs, the Port of Savannah’s August performance made for the fastest period in which the port has cleared the 1 million-TEU mark in a fiscal year.
“Our expanding container trade drives economic development, delivering jobs and opportunities locally and across the state,” Lynch said. He noted the recent opening of the final stretch of Jimmy Deloach Parkway, linking Garden City Terminal with interstates 95 and 16 – as well as greater reliance on rail – allow for growth while easing the traffic burden in neighboring communities.
Intermodal volumes, including operations at Garden City Terminal and the Appalachian Regional Port, totaled nearly 51,700 rail lifts in August, up by more than 4,000 lifts compared to the same month last year.
“The investments we have made in our operating infrastructure have been paying off in our ability to handle the sustained influx of business that began two years ago,” said GPA Chairman Joel Wooten. “Combined with a deeper harbor, our improved rail capabilities and expanded container yard space have allowed GPA to maintain fluid cargo management.”
In November 2021, GPA commissioned the final nine of 18 working tracks on its Mason Mega Rail Terminal, increasing rail capacity by 30 percent. Served by Class I railroads Norfolk Southern and CSX, the 85-acre rail yard is the largest of its kind for a port terminal in North America.
While the Port of Savannah continues to work through a vessel backlog, Lynch noted imports on the water are trending downward compared to July, when there were 265,000 containers destined for Savannah. Today, that number is 223,460 boxes on the water. Lynch said the number of vessels at anchor will dwindle over the next six weeks, and a more permanent solution will come online in June 2023, when improvements to Container Berth 1 at Garden City Terminal are completed.
Work to realign the berth is now more than 60 percent complete. The improvement will provide space for another big ship berth, allowing the Port of Savannah to simultaneously serve four 16,000-TEU vessels, as well as three additional ships.
“This is a rare project for a U.S. port,” Wooten said. “By this time next year, an additional big ship berth in Savannah will have increased our ability to move containers on and off vessels by 1.4 million TEUs per year.”
In a related project, GPA has ordered eight new ship-to-shore cranes, set to be commissioned in December 2023. Additionally, work has begun on the Garden City Terminal West Expansion Phase II. The project will add 90 acres of container storage space to be supported by 15 electric rubber-tired gantry cranes. The project will add 1 million TEUs of annual container handling capacity, coming online in phases in 2023 and 2024.
Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 561,000 jobs throughout the state annually, and contribute $33 billion in income, $140 billion in revenue and $3.8 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy.