Georgia Ports Authority approves USD 65M for Ocean Terminal


When all work is complete, Ocean Terminal’s annual capacity will grow from 300,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units to more than 1.5 million TEUs.

Georgia Ports Authority approves USD 65M for Ocean Terminal
© GPA Photo by Stephen B. Morton

The Georgia Ports Authority on Tuesday approved contracts totalling USD 65.6 million for container yard work at the Port of Savannah’s Ocean Terminal, a 200-acre facility just downriver from GPA’s main container port.

The board approved three project components, including earth compacting to prepare the site to hold container stacks, removal of a former bridge pier and preliminary utility installation behind the wharf structure.

The work will be funded through revenue bonds GPA issued in 2022.

“We’re very pleased with the progress on improving Ocean Terminal’s container handling capability,” said GPA President and CEO Griff Lynch. “We’re on track to see greater container capacity by late 2027.”

Previously approved upgrades at Ocean Terminal include the purchase of eight ship-to-shore cranes, refurbishment of the wharf structure, and construction of an overpass for direct access to US 17.

When all work is complete, Ocean Terminal’s annual capacity will grow from 300,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units to more than 1.5 million TEUs.

“At Georgia Ports, we never stop investing in the future,” said GPA Board Chairman Kent Fountain. “As new and existing port users grow their trade through our terminals, we’re ready to take on additional cargo, providing the world-class service that our customers have come to expect.”

Lynch reported to the board that GPA anticipates a third straight month of growth in March.

“I’d like to thank our local partners in the International Longshoremen’s Association and Gateway Terminals, along with our GPA employees for their work moving cargo across our docks with efficient, reliable service,” he said. “With a positive showing in the calendar year to date, Savannah is building momentum toward a stronger second half of Fiscal Year 2024.”

In other business, Lynch reported on recent developments in infrastructure projects:

Brunswick, Savannah harbour projects

The ports of Brunswick and Savannah will receive a total of USD 82.7 million in federal funding for maintenance dredging and harbour improvements in a six-bill budget package passed by Congress on March 8, 2024.

Nearly USD 38 million will go to the Port of Brunswick, including USD 11.35 million for the Brunswick Harbor Improvements project and another USD 26.6 million to dredge the federal waterway to its full authorized depth.

Inner harbour dredging completed earlier this year brought that portion of the Brunswick channel to the authorized 36 feet. However, funds allotted in 2023 were insufficient to bring the outer harbour from approximately 37 feet to its full authorized depth of 38 feet.

The new funding will cover the cost of dredging work in Brunswick’s inner harbour starting in late fall 2024. Outer harbour dredging will begin in December 2024. These items will take several months to complete.

On Feb. 29, 2024, Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law the state’s midyear budget adjustment, in which the Georgia General Assembly allocated just over USD 6 million for the Brunswick Harbor Improvements project, complementing the USD 11.35 million in federal funding.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended a harbour improvement plan that includes an expanded area for vessels to pass each other at St. Simons Sound, a bend widener, and an expansion of the turning basin where ships are turned bow-downriver before docking at Colonel’s Island.

These improvements will be made over about a year after the Corps of Engineers awards a contract for the work, expected in Calendar Year 2024.

The budget measures also devote USD 44.7 million to maintenance dredging conducted year-round in the Savannah Harbor.

GPA doubling size of U.S. Customs facility

Construction has started on a new, larger U.S. Customs inspection facility at the Port of Savannah, more than doubling the size of its current location.

The USD 44.5 million project will transition U.S. Customs operations from their current 130,000-square-foot location on Garden City Terminal to an adjacent 300,000-square-foot building. The new location will accommodate federal inspections by Customs and other federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Warehouse 83B will undergo a full renovation and modernization to provide office space and to support the inspection of dry and refrigerated containers. The project should be complete by January 2025.

GPA to replace two docks at East River Terminal

The Georgia Ports Authority has been awarded a USD 15 million federal grant to help replace Berths 2 and 3 at East River Terminal at the Port of Brunswick. The purpose is to improve safety and capacity for exporting wood pellets and peanut pellets, which are used as renewable energy sources.

While conducting the initial design phase, GPA will execute a grant agreement with the federal Maritime Administration and start work on an environmental study required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

In addition to the federal money, Georgia Ports will provide another USD 15 million to cover the expected cost.

The current dock infrastructure is more than 50 years old.

Once construction is complete, terminal operator Logistec will be able to work multiple vessels simultaneously at berths 2 and 3, improving the speed and efficiency of vessel service.

Construction is anticipated to start in late 2025.

In Calendar Year 2023, East River Terminal handled more than 1 million tons of bulk products, including export commodities such as wood pellets, peanut pellets and animal feed, and imports of salt, perlite and other commodities.

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