Image credit: Port of Savannah

Port of Savannah Reports Busiest Month on Record in October

Mike Schuler
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December 6, 2021

The Port of Savannah handled all-time record cargo in October as it works to expedite its terminal capacity expansion.

The Port of Savannah faces some of the worst congestion in the nation along with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Georgia Ports Authority reported Monday that the Savannah handled a total of 504,350 TEUs, an increase of 8.7% over October 2020. The performance surpassed GPA’s previous all-time record of 498,000 TEUs set back in March 2021.

“Moving more than half a million TEUs across our docks in one month is the result of new capacity already coming online and the incredible teamwork of GPA employees, the International Longshoremen’s Association and port customers,” said GPA’s Executive Director Griff Lynch.

At the Georgia Ports Authority Board meeting on Monday, Lynch detailed actions that will expedite the completion of 1.6 million TEU in additional annual capacity. By January, GPA plans to open 670,000 TEUs of new annual capacity at Garden City Terminal, followed by 155,000 TEUs of additional terminal capacity in March. By June, another 850,000 TEUs will come online at the port, delivering a total capacity increase of 25% in six months.

The GPA Board also approved the $24.4 million purchase of nine electric-powered rubber-tired gantry cranes that will help support the expansion.

“After our busiest month ever in October, this new container space is coming online just in time,” said GPA Board Chairman Joel Wooten. “By expediting the projects needed to ensure the free flow of cargo, we’re addressing our customers’ concerns today, and working to re-establish our longtime practice of keeping capacity 20 percent above current demand.”

The GPA said it is growing off-terminal capacity by another half-million TEUs by expanding its inland port strategy to include flexible “pop-up” container yards near manufacturing and distribution centers.

GPA has activated the yards in partnership with its two Class I rail providers, CSX and Norfolk Southern, as well as regional property owners. Four locations in Atlanta, Savannah, Statesboro, and Murray County in Northwest Georgia are up and running, bringing cargo closer to customers and increasing capacity by reducing unnecessary container storage time on Garden City Terminal.

The GPA said the new facilities will also reduce truck traffic. The new Atlanta yard, for example, will avoid more than 500 roundtrip truck miles per box, with anticipated volumes of 1,200 containers a month. The GPA is also arranging additional sites, which will bring the total added capacity for this new supply chain program to 500,000 TEUs.

Lynch said with the new capacity arriving and customers clearing cargo more quickly, the Port of Savannah has already seen a dramatic drop in the length of time containers are on terminal. He said the number of import containers on port for more than four weeks has dropped by 53 percent compared to September.

Information provided by the Georgia Ports Authority on Monday showed 14 ships waiting at anchor, down from about two dozen ships at anchor in mid-October and 30 in mid-September as congestion peaked.

Meanwhile, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach last month both reported declining volumes in October, down about 8% and 2% year-over-year, respectively. New figures released over the weekend showed 96 ships waiting to berth at the ports, a new record. The report was the first to count the number of ships in the queue both within and outside of the 150-mile safety and air quality exclusion zone that came into effect in mid-November.

In its 2021 fiscal year, the Port of Savannah recorded 5.3 million TEU for an increase in 20 percent compared the previous year. For Savannah, FY2021 marked the first time it’s moved 5 million TEU or more in a single year – which also happened to set a U.S. Southeast and Gulf Coast record.

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