Photo courtesy Port of Savannah

Port of Savannah Sees Container Lull in November

Mike Schuler
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December 13, 2022

The Port of Savannah saw some easing of container demand in November amid inflation and a shift in consumer spending.

The Georgia Ports Authority said it moved 464,883 TEUs in November for a decrease of 6.2 percent, or 30,886 TEUs, compared to the same month last year. The good news is that the lull has given the opportunity for Savannah to reduce its vessel backlog.

Compared to November 2019, the Port of Savannah’s performance last month constitutes an increase of 28 percent over three years—a rate of growth that is well above GPA’s pre-pandemic expansion, which averaged 4 to 5 percent annually.

“Container trade at U.S. ports is returning to a more sustainable growth pattern, which is a positive development for the logistics industry” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “Along with the addition of more than 1 million TEUs of annual capacity, a slight reduction in demand will mean faster vessel service as we work to bring a new big ship berth online at Garden City Terminal in July.”

Weather also played a role in the November’s decline. The Savannah River channel was closed to the largest vessels for more than three days last month because of adverse weather conditions, including Tropical Storm Nicole.

“While we are planning for a moderation in the container trade, we expect volumes to remain strong, though shy of the historic highs of the past year,” said GPA Chairman Joel Wooten. “Announcements from automakers and other manufacturers coming to Georgia, as well as an array of their suppliers, will mean healthy increases in trade over the long term.”

Lynch said Savannah has reduced its vessel queue to 17 container ships, down 43 percent from November 1, when there were 30 vessels at anchor. GPA expects to clear the backlog by early January.

Last week, the GPA announced its intention to renovate the docks at Ocean Terminal in Savannah to provide two additional big ship berths, and transform the 200-acre facility to a container-only operation by 2026.

Savannah this year has benefited from a eastward shift in U.S. imports away from the West Coast, where unsettled labor negotiations for more than 22,000 dockworkers raised the possibility of disruptions, to East and Gulf Coast ports.

The Port of Savannah saw its second busiest month on record in October behind only August 2022, with volumes jumping 9.6% year on year.

Yesterday, Descartes Systems reported that total U.S. container imports fell a whopping 19.4 percent in November compared to the same month last year, to 1.95 million TEUs. That’s only 2.8 percent higher than pre-pandemic in November 2019.

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