Port of Savannah Garden City Terminal

The Georgia Ports Authority's Garden City Terminal at the Port of Savannah. Photo: Georgia Ports Authority / Jeremy Polston

Carriers Skip Congestion-Hit Port of Savannah

Mike Schuler
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October 13, 2021

French shipping giant CMA CGM says it will suspend calls at the Port of Savannah on the U.S. East Coast due to severe congestion and long wait times. The announcement comes a day after German liner Hapag-Lloyd said it will also be omitting the Savanah call from its India America Express service.

The CMA CGM suspension applies to its AMERIGO service connecting the Western Mediterranean with the USEC. The company says the temporary suspension is due to congestion with wait times of up to 8 to 10 days.

A new call will be added to the Port of Charleston, in South Carolina, which will receive shipments bound for Savannah. The first sailing impacted will be the MV CMA CGM La Traviata, on voyage 0MR9TW1MA, which has an ETA in Algeciras on October 31 followed by Charleston on November 27. The diverted vessels will call at Charleston’s Wando Welch Terminal (WWT) on Saturdays, mirroring the current Savannah berth window.

port of savannah containerships at anchorage
A screengrab of AIS data from MarineTraffic.com shows the traffic jam of containerships at anchorage off the Port of Savannah. Taken September 28, 2021. Courtesy MarineTraffic.com

Congestion at the Port of Savannah has become among the worst on the U.S. East Coast with more than 30 ships at anchorage and wait times upwards of 7 days as of mid-September. In an operations update in late last month, Maersk Line said the situation in Savannah had become “increasingly challenging.”

On Tuesday, Hapag-Lloyd announced changes to its India America Express service, connecting the Indian Subcontinent with the East Coast of North America, which will included omitting its Savannah call from week 42 to week 47.

To help relieve some of the congestion, Georgia Ports Authority Board in September approved more than $34 million to help expedite the addition of 1.6 million TEU capacity now scheduled to come online in December. The funds come on the heels of second busiest month in the Savannah’s history in August thanks to the pandemic-fueled imports boom. 

To the north, South Carolina Ports reported record monthly throughput in September across Port of Charleston’s three container terminals, with 205,008 TEUs representing a 5% increase year-over-year. SC Ports in March opened phase one of its new Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal (HLT), adding 700,000 TEUs of annual throughput capacity and an additional berth to the East Coast market. However, a labor dispute between International Longshoremen’s Association and certain container carriers has left the terminal largely unused, with SC Ports’ website showing only three vessel arrivals scheduled between now and the end of the month.

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