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Full speed ahead for Savannah

The Georgia Port Authority handled 4.2M TEU in its Fiscal Year 2018, up 8.4% on 2017.

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The increase represents an additional 325,000 TEU, which is not that far off the design capacity of a typical container berth per year at an import/export terminal.


"Moving more than 4 million TEUs in a single fiscal year is an important milestone for Georgia," said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. "Georgia’s logistical advantages, along with the Southeast’s population growth, have resulted in increased demand, while the expanded Panama Canal has cleared the way for larger vessels to call Savannah."


Throughput surged in June, bringing the number of consecutive months of positive year-over-year growth to 20. “In its busiest June ever, the Port of Savannah handled 370,725 TEUs, up 9.8 % (33,014 TEUs) over June 2017. It was the Authority’s 18th month in a row handling more than 300,000 TEUs,” the GPA noted. The port also set a record in rail, with intermodal lifts rising to 435,000, an increase of 16.1%, or more than 60,000 additional moves.


The GPA’s growth rate, however, is slowing somewhat. Its box throughout was up 11.7% in its first half year report. Nevertheless, the GPA is still celbrating a very strong 2017 result. "Outstanding effort from our GPA employees, the International Longshoremen’s Association, stevedores, trucking and rail personnel made it possible to exceed customer expectations and achieve record results," said GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood. "I cannot say enough about the partnership and can-do spirit of the Georgia maritime community."


The GPA’s June performance is also at least partly attributable to a rush to get peak season imports into the US market ahead of tariffs on Chinese imports, some of which came into effect in July.


The GPA, however, has achieved long term success over the past decade by sticking to its plan to keep capacity ahead of demand, regardless of dark clouds in the short term forecast, and it is not changing course in response to the tariff issue. It has identified the port’s intermodal reach as an increasingly important competitive factor. The GPA Board has approved spending US$8.8M on an overpass, as part of the $127 million Mason Mega Rail project that, upon completion, will allow 10,000-foot unit trains to be built on terminal. Mega Rail and other improvements will increase Savannah’s annual rail lift capacity to 1 million containers by 2020, “thereby cutting transit time to markets such as Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati by 24 hours,” GPA noted.


An inland terminal, the “Appalachian Regional Port”, is also scheduled to open in August. The GPA claims this will take 50,000 trucks off Georgia highways. “Removing the need for a 710-mile roundtrip via truck, the ARP will improve container availability and reduce transportation costs for port customers in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky”.


At the Garden City marine terminal, GPA already has an extensive procurement programme running with Konecranes. In addition it has now approved adding 15 new reefer container racks, accommodating a total of 360 additional containers. The port currently has 104 racks, with a capacity of 2,496 reefers. The port is also adding 10 new container handlers at a cost of US$3.5M.


The GPA also had a good year in the breakbulk sector. Forest products at Mayor’s Point Terminal in Brunswick increased by 34.5%, up 35,953 tons, for a total of 138,653 tons. Machinery, as well as commodities such as rubber and paper, pushed the breakbulk total at Savannah’s Ocean Terminal to 1.35 million tons, up 10% or 122,305 tons compared to FY2017.

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