Congested Port of Savannah Just Had Its Busiest September On Record

Cargo import and export Georgia Ports Authority’s at the Garden City Terminal, Friday, June 18, 2021, in Garden City, Ga. (GPA Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Congested Port of Savannah Just Had Its Busiest September On Record

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3230
October 21, 2021

Georgia’s Port of Savannah just had its busiest September on record as it works to alleviate congestion that has led to the largest backlog of ships on the U.S. East Coast.

The Georgia Ports Authority on Thursday said Port of Savannah moved a monthly record of 472,000 TEUs in September, up 14.5 percent year-over-year. Officials say the Garden City Terminal, the port’s largest, has seen steady improvement in the speed of cargo moving off the docks.

“Our team is doing a great job, handling an immense volume of cargo every day,” said Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority. “I’d also like to extend our appreciation to our many customers, who are working in lockstep with us to move cargo more quickly and work vessels with greater efficiency.”

The Port of Savannah handles almost 1 in 10 cargo containers in the United States. According the GPA, Savannah has seen a 55 percent reduction in the number of import boxes that have been at the Garden City Terminal for longer than four weeks, with average dwell time for import containers now at 7.19 days, down almost four days from September. Exports average seven days. GPA has also adjusted its container receiving window to help export customers.

Across all of Georgia’s ports and inland terminals, total cargo for September reached 3.3 million tons, up 8 percent year-over-year.

A large number of shipping containers are seen stacked at the Port of Savannah, Georgia, U.S. October 17, 2021. REUTERS/Octavio Jones

The GPA said truck traffic at the Garden City Terminal remains “fluid,” with single container moves over the past month averaging 38 minutes, or 60 minutes for dual import/export moves. Counting both import and export cargo, the port’s truck gates are averaging 70,000 moves per week, while intermodal containers take less than two days to move from vessel offload to departing rail, according to the GPA.

According to the GPA’s website, there were 24 ships waiting at anchor as of Thursday, down from a peak of 30 in mid-September, representing the biggest backlog on the East Coast. The backlog has been so bad that some services have been re-routed to nearby ports of Charleston, in South Carolina, and Jacksonville (JAXPORT) in Florida

In the short term, Georgia Ports Authority in December will role out the first phase of its Peak Capacity project, which will provide for an additional 300,000 TEUs of annual capacity by adding three new rubber-tired gantry (RTG) crane rows. Phase II of the project will add a fourth RTG row and additional empty container space by the spring of 2022, adding another 500,000 TEUs of annual capacity.

Altogether, GPA is currently investing $700 million in infrastructure projects to expand berths and bring on new yard capacity. By next spring, the GPA says these projects will bring the total capacity increase to 2 million TEUs.

An expansion of Garden City’s Berth 1, combined with eight new STS cranes and the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project, will allow Savannah to serve more containerships in the range of 16,000 TEU capacity with heavier loads with fewer tidal restrictions beginning in 2023.

In 2020, the Port of Savannah handled over 9% of total U.S. containerized cargo volume and almost 11% of all U.S. containerized exports.

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