Port of Savannah on Track for Record Year

Port of Savannah
Georgia Ports Authority

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As the year comes to a close, the Georgia Ports Authority is on track to set yet another record with more than 4.6 million 20-foot equivalent container units (TEUs).

That level of trade would be a 14% increase over volumes moved through Savannah three years ago, or an additional 550,000 TEUs.

Through October, GPA has moved 3.88 million TEUs, an increase of 222,800 containers, or 6%, over 2018. For the month of October, GPA moved 428,381 TEUs, an increase of 3.5% compared with last October.

Container volumes for the fiscal year to date are at 1.6 million TEUs, which is about 6% above last year and 0.6% ahead of budget, GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch reported Dec. 3 during the authority’s final board meeting of 2019.

In a time when other ports are dealing with declines in volume and market share, the discussions at GPA remain focused on gains, Lynch said.

“I think it’s really an amazing achievement, especially for Georgia, and it has a lot to do with the great economy in Georgia and the great economy in the Southeast,” he said.

Rail cargo continues to grow with intermodal volumes expanding by 30% over the first 10 months of the year, compared with the same period in 2017. The port handled 427,891 rail containers through October, up 98,835 over volumes from three years ago.

The new Mason Mega Rail terminal, which is expected to be completed in March, will double Savannah’s on-port rail capacity to 1 million containers per year.

“The staff came to us five years about the Mega Rail, and it really shows that they had the idea about where it was going. It’ll open up this spring, and it’s going to be a huge, huge thing for the Georgia Ports Authority,” board Chairman Will McKnight said.



In Brunswick at the Colonel’s Island Terminal, auto volumes are down about 3.5% to date, which Lynch said is consistent with the overall industry. GPA continues to work to bring in new customers on the auto side, Lynch said.

“We don’t envision organic growth on the autos that we have just because of the environment that is out there in the auto industry. If you read any reporting on the auto industry right now, it’s down, so we’re going to go as the auto industry goes,” Lynch said.

“We do think there is a great potential to add new business, and we’re talking with some potential customers now and we feel pretty strongly that this year we’ll have new business down in Colonel’s Island.”

GPA recently completed a conversion of the former bulk facility at Colonel’s Island to approximately 50 acres of paved land for autos. McKnight also noted that GPA’s existing customers remain satisfied, as underscored by BMW recently inking a 20-year lease.

“You’re not going to find another port around that can do it that fast, so we’re able to attract new customers with that,” McKnight said of the conversions, which take three to four month to complete.

Looking ahead  as the Dec. 15 tariff deadline draws closer, Lynch and McKnight said the ports’ diverse markets help to offset any potential declines. The tariffs would impose an additional 10% fee on certain Chinese imports, including cellphones, laptop computers, video game consoles, certain toys, computer monitors, and certain items of footwear and clothing.

Overall, the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on approximately $250 billion of Chinese imports, according to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Ports officials feel good about wrapping the year up in a positive fashion and bringing home another record.

“You look at our mix of customers, and we’ve become a lot more diversified from the countries of origin for imports. India, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea are a bigger percentage, and China is going down,” McKnight said.



Lynch and McKnight also credited Gov. Brian Kemp, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Savannah Economic Development Authority for the work they do in attracting new firms to the state, which in turn helps to bolster business at the port.

Earlier this year, Plastic Express announced a $172 million investment in two resin packaging warehouses in Savannah. Then in October, A&R Logistics selected the Savannah market for its new global export hub for plastic resins. Combined, the two companies are expected to move between 50,000 to 100,000 containers a year through the port.

“What we’re now celebrating here today is a reflection of Georgia being the No. 1 state to do business. New businesses come and we grow; it’s a simple formula,” Lynch said.

The reasons to celebrate will continue this week as GPA welcomes three new ship-to-shore cranes Dec. 6. An additional three cranes are expected to arrive in March, bringing the fleet to 10.

“We’re making all the investments that we need to make and trying to stay ahead of the game,” Lynch said.

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