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February 28, 2022 1:39 AM, EST

Georgia’s Port of Savannah Has Big Expansion Plans

Port of Savannah, Ga. Plans are for the Port of Savannah to expand capacity from about 6 million 20-foot-equivalent units to 9.5 million by 2025. (Adam Kuehl/Bloomberg News)

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Already the second-busiest port on the Atlantic coast, Georgia’s Port of Savannah has big expansion plans.

Port officials on Feb. 25 announced they have a short- and long-term plan to keep expanding one of the largest container ports, second only to the Port of New York and New Jersey on the Eastern Seaboard.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., are the largest in the U.S.

Griff Lynch

Lynch

Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch, in his annual State of the Port address, unveiled the plan to increase capacity by 60% from about 6 million 20-foot-equivalent container units (TEUs) to 9.5 million by 2025.

“Our expansion is being matched by incredible growth in both warehouse space and workforce,” Lynch said. “The public and private investment that we’re seeing, as well as the number of people being drawn to the business, make Savannah the hottest market in the country for transportation and logistics.”

Several projects are underway Lynch said, and by the middle of the decade he anticipates the growth will dramatically increase monthly container volume. Savannah is expanding its Berth 1, increasing on-dock capacity by 25%, which by 2023 will allow it to simultaneously serve four 16,000-TEU vessels as well as three additional ships. The renovations will add an estimated 1.5 million TEUs per year of berth capacity.

The larger ships will be able to be accommodated because of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, set to be finished in March. The deeper river channel will allow 16,000-plus TEU vessels to take on heavier loads and transit the river with greater scheduling flexibility.

“This project has been more than 20 years in the making,” Lynch said. “Through it all, there has been strong support across several administrations, from the General Assembly and our congressional delegation. A special debt of gratitude goes to the late Sen. Johnny Isakson, who shepherded our harbor deepening efforts through the federal process.”

Port of Savannah finished a record-setting 2021 by processing more than 5.6 million TEUs and started 2022 with another monthly record. The port moved 476,713 boxes, besting by 4% last January’s 459,608. The facility has set monthly records for the past 18 months.

The port also is becoming a key economic driver for Georgia and the regional economy. According to a University of Georgia-Terry College of Business School study, the increase in volume at the port added 93,000 jobs last year.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

Kemp

“GPA’s role facilitating commerce — even in difficult times — is key to Georgia’s long-term economic success, and I am proud of the can-do spirit that sets our ports apart from the rest of the nation,” Gov. Brian Kemp said.

Port officials said as the facility has grown it continues to see a rapid expansion of truck traffic in and out of the delivery zone.

With the port 5 miles from interstates 95 and 16, officials say they’ve seen a substantial increase in truck traffic since November, registering 1,200 new drivers and 370 new trucking companies that have picked up or dropped off cargo.

The port also is broadening its workforce development effort as part of its YES+ (Youth learning Equipment and Safety) program.

Economic Impact

Jobs: Nearly 500,000

Annual revenue: $122  billion

State and local taxes: $3.4 billion

Of note: The port handled 9.3% of total U.S. containerized cargo volume in fiscal 2020.

Source: Georgia Ports Authority

It focuses on alternatives for high school graduates ready to begin a career in truck driving, logistics, port operations and maintenance. With the need for workers expected to surge, the port is broadening the program to include career opportunities for young workers in other departments.

Across the country, warehouse real estate vacancy rates — especially near ports — remain tight. A new projection from Prologis Inc. shows how difficult it is to find warehouse space. The national vacancy rate at the end of 2021 showed an all-time low of 3.4%, even as more than 250 million square feet of warehouse space was added to the market. Near port facilities, the vacancy rate has been below 2% in some areas. Prologis said rents will increase by as much as 10% this year in what it is calling a “best case” scenario.

To that end, according to Colliers International, Savannah port officials added 6.5 million square feet of industrial space last year, bringing to 84 million square feet the amount of real estate available for cargo, even as its over all vacancy rate remains at 2.3%.

An additional 17 million square feet of property is under development, port officials said, which will bring capacity to more than 100 million square feet.

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