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Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch delivered an optimistic outlook for the Port of Savannah thanks to a convergence of domestic and international factors that are seen as likely to steer more cargo toward’s the nation’s fastest-growing port.
Speaking before an audience at the Georgia Foreign Trade Conference held on Sea Island, Lynch highlighted the impact of U.S. demographic and manufacturing trends, as well as changes in global sourcing that favor Savannah as a cargo destination.
“The population of the U.S. Southeast is growing faster than any other region of the country, and manufacturers are flocking to the area’s business-friendly states,” Lynch said. “Overseas, production is shifting to locations such as India and Vietnam that favor delivery via Savannah.”
According to U.S. Census data, the population of the U.S. South grew by 2.3 million people from 2020 to 2022, while the Western U.S. saw an increase of only 92,000 people.
Lynch noted that the region’s lower operating costs, expanding population base, and logistical advantages that make it an attractive market area for producers. He highlighted the recent announcement of Hyundai Metaplant’s establishment in the region, which will create a new ecosystem for auto manufacturing and ancillary suppliers, driving cargo through Georgia’s deepwater ports.
The Port of Savannah has benefitted from a growing percentage of inbound cargo shifting from the West Coast following congestion and now fear over labor disruptions. The GPA reports its share of the U.S. container market has grown from 7.8 percent in Fiscal Year 2014 to a record 11.4 percent in FY2023. Currently, Georgia Ports handle almost one out of every eight loaded TEUs in the United States.
Increased trade in agriculture, retail, and manufactured goods has helped to boost the Port of Savannah’s rankings from 46th to 27th worldwide since 2006. Lynch noted that shippers are adopting a “China Plus 1” policy, whereby they are maintaining significant production capabilities in China while diversifying supply chains with secondary manufacturing locations.
This strategy has led to a decline in imports flowing from China through the Port of Savannah, from 49 percent in 2018 to 41 percent in 2022, as manufacturers establish factories in growing markets such as Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, and India.
Lynch expressed confidence in India’s potential to emerge as a potential winner in the “China Plus 1” strategy, thereby benefiting the U.S. East Coast and Savannah since cargo from India favors the Suez Canal to reach the U.S.
“As the Southeastern port with the most direct global routes, Savannah is better connected to emerging markets,” said incoming GPA Board Chairman Kent Fountain. “Georgia Ports already delivers on reliability and cost. GPA will now also provide a five-day advantage on ocean transit compared to West Coast delivery from India.”
The surge in cargo headed to Savannah coincides with GPA’s ongoing expansion projects. With $1.9 billion invested in infrastructure initiatives, GPA is refurbishing three berths to accommodate large ships and adding 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of new annual terminal capacity.
“We are accelerating investments to ensure we are prepared for growth,” stated Joel Wooten, current Chairman of GPA. “At GPA, we understand that being proactive in anticipating market shifts will determine the winners in this industry.”
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