Export containers are loaded onto a Yang Ming vessel at the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal. The Georgia Ports Authority is moving cargo at a rate of more than 6 million twenty-foot equivalent container units per year. Credit: Georgia Ports Authority / Stephen Morton

Port of Savannah Reports Busiest Month on Record in August

Mike Schuler
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September 13, 2022

Another big month for the Port of Savannah in August as cargo continues to be re-routed there despite congestion.

The Georgia Ports Authority said it handled 575,513 TEU in August making for its busiest month ever. The figure represents a whopping 18.5% increase compared to the same month in 2021, representing a 89,918 TEU jump.

Savannah has been picking up cargo volumes diverted from West Coast ports that have experienced congestion throughout the pandemic and threats of labor action as the ILWU and PMA continue to negotiate a new contract for more 22,000 West Coast port workers.

“The Port of Savannah’s geographic and capacity advantages remain a driving force behind current and new customers deciding to move cargo through Georgia,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “Our central location, and service through the largest container terminal in the Western Hemisphere offers speed to market and unmatched room to grow.”

Combined with July’s 530,800 TEUs, the Port of Savannah has now cleared the 1 million-TEU mark in a fiscal year—it’s fastest pace on record.

August’s Intermodal volumes, including operations at Garden City Terminal and the Appalachian Regional Port, totaled nearly 51,700 rail lifts in August, up by more than 4,000 lifts compared to the same month last year.

“The investments we have made in our operating infrastructure have been paying off in our ability to handle the sustained influx of business that began two years ago,” said GPA Chairman Joel Wooten. “Combined with a deeper harbor, our improved rail capabilities and expanded container yard space have allowed GPA to maintain fluid cargo management.”

Capacity Expansion

In November 2021, GPA commissioned the final nine of 18 working tracks on its Mason Mega Rail Terminal, increasing rail capacity by 30 percent.

While the Port of Savannah continues to work through a vessel backlog, Lynch noted imports on the water are trending downward compared to July, when there were 265,000 containers destined for Savannah. That number has been decreased to 223,460 boxes on the water currently. The Georgia Ports Authority website shows 37 containerships waiting at anchor, which is down from more than 40 earlier this year but still way above normal pre-pandemic levels.

Lynch said he expects the number of vessels at anchor will dwindle over the next six weeks, and a more permanent solution will come online in June 2023, when improvements to Container Berth 1 at Garden City Terminal are completed. That project, now more than 60 percent complete, will provide space for a fourth big ship berth, allowing the Port of Savannah to simultaneously serve four 16,000-TEU vessels, as well as three additional ships.

“This is a rare project for a U.S. port,” Wooten said. “By this time next year, an additional big ship berth in Savannah will have increased our ability to move containers on and off vessels by 1.4 million TEUs per year.”

In a related project, GPA has ordered eight new ship-to-shore cranes, set to be commissioned in December 2023. Additionally, work has begun on the Garden City Terminal West Expansion Phase II. The project will add 90 acres of container storage space to be supported by 15 electric rubber-tired gantry cranes. The project will add 1 million TEUs of annual container handling capacity, coming online in phases in 2023 and 2024.

An impact study just released by the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business showed that port activityy supports 561,000 full- and part-time jobs in the state, which is up from 496,700 in Fiscal Year 2019. According to the latest study, Georgia ports now account for 11 percent of total state employment, or one out of 9 jobs, based on FY2021 numbers.

“Our expanding container trade drives economic development, delivering jobs and opportunities locally and across the state,” Lynch said.

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