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Georgia Ports Authority Sees Sustained Growth in Ro/Ro Cargo Handling

A Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel prepares to offload cargo at the Port of Brunswick. Photo courtesy Georgia Ports Authority

Georgia Ports Authority Sees Sustained Growth in Ro/Ro Cargo Handling

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1883
April 24, 2023

The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) is marking a significant milestone as it records eight consecutive months of growth in Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro/Ro) cargo handling.

In March alone, the Port of Brunswick processed 62,100 units of vehicles and heavy equipment, with Savannah’s Ocean Terminal contributing an additional 1,700 units, totaling 63,800 units.

This volume represents a 22% increase compared to the same period last year. GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch attributes this success to new customers and increased trade with long-standing partners. The Port of Brunswick’s Colonel’s Island Terminal stands out for its available space, connectivity to key markets, and ease of doing business, Lynch said.

More than 24 automakers depend on the Port of Brunswick for their operations.

As of March, the fiscal year-to-date figures reveal that GPA has managed 540,735 units of vehicles and heavy equipment, marking an 80,443-unit or 17.5% increase. The Ro/Ro cargo monthly average for Fiscal Year 2023 now stands at 60,082 units, a significant improvement from FY22’s 51,144-unit average.

GPA Chief Commercial Officer Cliff Pyron explains that an easing of the microchip shortage has led to increased production, contributing to the growth at Brunswick.

“The logjam in microchip availability is starting to break, and manufacturers have increased production to meet pent-up demand,” said Pyron. “Asian and European trade lanes account for most of the expansion in Brunswick’s trade, but production in Mexico is a growing factor.”

European automakers who were severely impacted by the chip shortage are now benefiting from improved chip availability. As manufacturing capacity expands in Mexico, Pyron noted that Brunswick is well-positioned to accommodate additional short-sea trade. He cited Nissan’s recent decision to use the Port of Brunswick as a significant factor in the increased auto trade.

Capacity expansion at Colonel’s Island is also underway, with the construction of 350,000 square feet of near-dock warehousing for auto processing. Additionally, three new buildings and 85 acres of auto storage on the island’s south side are being developed. A fourth berth for Ro/Ro vessels is also in the engineering phase, which will boost annual capacity from 1.2 million to 1.4 million units.

GPA Senior Director of Trade Development, Bruce Kuzma, emphasizes the efficiency of Colonel’s Island’s hub port model with its four on-site auto processors, growth potential, and unmatched proximity to dealerships in major markets. “We are thankful for the powerful support from our customers, and look forward to continuing to deliver world-class service and reliability,” he said.

The GPA’s strong performance in the Ro/Ro sector comes as container volumes at the Port of Savannah are down compared to last year. The GPA last week announced container volumes of 367,880 TEUs in March, down more than 17% compared to 444,690 TEUs in the same month last year. Nevertheless, the Port of Savannah has been growing its market share of container volumes.

“Business continues to shift to Savannah from the West Coast as more cargo owners decide on a ‘four corners’ approach to cargo movement. As new customers discover the ease of doing business on the East Coast, many are increasing the percentage of their total trade routed through Savannah,” the GPA said.

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