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Georgia makes its rail pitch

The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) is backing its new Mason Mega Rail project to extend its reach further into the US industrial heartland.

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The GPA broke ground this month on its new Mason Mega Rail project, which it aims to bring online in just 18 months. Port Executive Director Griff Lynch is already pitching the development as opening up a “new supply chain option directly to America’s Midwest” for shippers.

 

The GPA has enjoyed strong growth in recent years that has pushed its container throughput to over 4M TEU in 2017, but the percentage of those containers arriving and leaving on land by rail is behind other US terminals.

 

The GPA’s intermodal percentage currently sits at around 19%, whereas Charleston is closer to 25% and New York New Jersey 32%. Virginia, which claims to be the leading rail port on the US East Coast, is moving 36% of its gate volume by rail. On the west coast the terminals in Los Angeles and Long Beach average 24-25%, and the ports are pushing to increase that number to 35%.

 

 

Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch
Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch

With the Mason Mega Rail project the GPA is aiming to scale up its rail operation considerably. The new yard is designed to efficiently handle 10,000-foot unit trains by both CSX and Norfolk Southern, with 18 working tracks, nearly 180,000 feet of track and a lift capacity of 1 million containers per year.

 

“Shippers in major markets from Memphis to St. Louis and Chicago to Cincinnati will experience greater efficiencies and reduced transit times to and from Savannah’s growing intermodal hub. In many instances, cargo will avoid rail hub layovers, pick up a full day, and in turn open new markets and opportunities for shippers,” said Lynch.

 

The GPA is also looking to partnerships to replace trucking with rail in the Southeast. This August the Appalachian Regional Port (ARP), a joint venture between the GPA, CSX and the State of Georgia, is set to open. “For target markets in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, the ARP will provide an alternative to all-truck transit to and from the Port of Savannah. The new facility will lower transportation costs and speed up container returns, as boxes are sourced closer to the customer,” said Lynch. The facility will handle up to 50,000 containers per year - with each round-trip move offsetting 710 truck miles on Georgia highways.

 

The GPA wants to leverage partnerships with railroads to extend its gates to every corner of Georgia, serving a region of six states in the process. “Both the Mason Mega Rail Terminal and the ARP couldn’t be coming at a better time. Savannah saw a 14% increase in TEU container volume for March (up 9% for FYTD18, July -March) and 17 consecutive months of growth” concluded Lynch.

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