Georgia Ports Authority Unveils ‘Big Berth, Big Ship’ Expansion Plan for Savannah

Garden City Terminal port of savannah
Containers and ship to shore cranes working vessels at the Georgia Ports Authority Garden City Terminal, Thursday, Feb., 15, 2018, in Savannah, Ga. (GPA Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

The Georgia Ports Authority unveiled a plan Tuesday to expand the Port of Savannah to simultaneously handle six 14,000 TEU vessels by 2024.

The plan, called the Big Berth/Big Ship program, was unveiled by Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch speaking at the Georgia Foreign Trade Conference.

“No other single container terminal in North America has the ability to expand berth capacity at this rate,” said Lynch. Currently, Savannah’s Garden City Terminal is equipped to handle two of these vessels, increasing to three by April.

During his presentation, Lynch told the audience that the Port of Savannah had just achieved its busiest month ever in January, moving 433,975 TEUs for a 28 percent jump over the previous year.

“A strong global economy coupled with a growing awareness of Savannah’s logistical advantages are driving sustained growth at our deepwater container terminal,” GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood said. “GPA’s Big Berth/Big Ship program will ensure Georgia stays ahead of demand and ahead of the competition.”

Over the next five years, the Authority plans to add another 21 Neo-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes, replacing 14 of its older models to bring the total fleet to 37. Dock upgrades are already underway to support the new, larger machines.

The Savannah market is also seeing significant private development, the GPA says. Over the past 24 months, private investors have added 9 million square feet, to bring Savannah’s total industrial real estate market to 60.6 million square feet. The rate of construction has since accelerated, with another 9.2 million square feet of industrial space now under construction.

“The Savannah market outpaces its peer group for warehouse demand. One of Savannah’s strong suits is that within a 30-mile radius from Gate 4 there is still a real deep inventory of industrial sites and parks that have very effective access to and from Garden City Terminal,” said Blaine Kelly, senior vice president in the global supply chain practice of industrial real estate firm CBRE. “Not surprisingly, it really all starts with the ports infrastructure, the access to global markets, the capacity for long-term growth, and the proximity to the immediate and regional customer base.”

In addition to the ship-to-shore cranes GPA is adding, a dozen new rubber-tired gantry cranes will bring the number Garden City Terminal’s container handling cranes to 158. Ten RTGs will be commissioned in July, another two in September. Phase I of the Mason Mega Rail project will be complete in October 2019. Full completion a year later will double the Port of Savannah’s rail lift capacity to 1 million containers per year. In late 2021, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is slated for completion, delivering the deeper water necessary to better accommodate the larger vessels now calling on the U.S. East Coast.

“These advancements are necessary to handle tremendous customer demand at our terminals,” Lynch said.