Port of Savannah Sets Record in July for Rail Cargo

Ship at Port of Savannah
Port of Savannah by Georgia Ports Authority

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July was a record month for intermodal cargo at the Port of Savannah, achieving 10.5% growth during the month, the Georgia Ports Authority announced Aug. 12.

“We’re moving containers from ship to outgoing rail in less than 24 hours at the Port of Savannah,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “That world-class service is why we’re capturing more business to inland destinations and converting more cargo from truck to rail.”

The port handled 47,255 rail lifts last month, an increase of 4,511 containers compared with 2018, which held the previous record for July. Over the past three years, the port has grown its rail volume by 35.4%, completing more than 507,000 intermodal lifts in the fiscal year that ended in June.

The growth comes as the first sections of new rail track have become operational on the Mason Mega Rail terminal, now 40% complete. Phase 1 of the $218 million project will open by the end of the year. When Phase II opens in 2020, the project will have doubled the Port of Savannah’s rail lift capacity to 1 million containers per year.

The project will make Savannah the largest on-dock intermodal rail facility in North America, according to GPA Board Chairman Will McKnight.

“With an enhanced capability for 10,000-foot-long trains on terminal, Mega Rail will slash up to 24 hours from our delivery times by enabling direct service to destinations across the Midwest,” McKnight said.


Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch opens the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Appalachian Regional Port in 2018. (Stephen Morton/Georgia Port Authority via AP)

The Mega Rail Terminal will also help improve vehicle traffic flow in neighboring communities by moving all rail switching onto GPA property.

Savannah’s intermodal success also contributed to its busiest July ever for overall container trade, with 387,024 20-foot-equivalent container units, an increase of 8,257 TEUs or 2.2% compared to the same month last year.

“Part of our cargo growth is certainly related to the strong state and national economies, but GPA is also growing its profile among U.S. East Coast ports,” Lynch said.

Lynch noted recent successes, such as Gov. Brian Kemp’s April announcement that Plastic Express will export plastic resins via Savannah. With shipments starting in October, the California-based company will immediately become one of Savannah’s largest export customers.

Lynch and McKnight also credited the container port’s success to GPA’s continual investment in increasing cargo capacity. The authority commissioned four new Neopanamax ship-to-shore cranes in 2018, bringing its Garden City fleet to 30, the most of any single terminal in North America. Another six cranes are scheduled to be delivered next year, allowing GPA to move up to 1,200 containers per hour across a single dock.

Over the summer, Garden City Terminal received 10 new Rubber-Tired Gantry cranes. Two more are set to arrive in October, bringing the RTG fleet to 158.

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