Image credit: Port of Savannah

Port of Savannah to Expand Capacity By 60%

Mike Schuler
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February 24, 2022

Georgia Ports Authority has announce plans to expand the Port of Savannah capacity by 60% in the next few years.

The announcement was made by GPA’s executive director Griff Lynch during during Thursday’s Savannah State of the Port.

The enhancements will bring the Port of Savannah’s annual capacity from 6 million twenty-foot equivalent container units to 9.5 million TEUs by 2025.

“Our expansion is being matched by incredible growth in both warehouse space and workforce,” Lynch said. “The public and private investment that we’re seeing, as well as the number of people being drawn to the business, make Savannah the hottest market in the country for transportation and logistics.”

Projects currently underway will add 1.7 million TEUs of annual capacity four months from now. GPA’s Peak Capacity project has already added 400,000 TEUs in container handling space to the Garden City Terminal and will make room for another 820,000 TEUs by June. In the same month, a new container yard just upriver will add another 500,000 TEUs of capacity. Separately, the Garden City Terminal West project will add up to 1 million TEUs in phases by 2024.

“GPA’s role facilitating commerce – even in difficult times – is key to Georgia’s long-term economic success, and I am proud of the can-do spirit that sets our ports apart from the rest of the nation,” said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. “The Ports of Savannah and Brunswick together play a major role in positioning Georgia as the go-to state for economic development, and I am thankful for all the hardworking men and women who have hunkered down to move Georgia forward over the past year.”

Savannah has been one of the few ports in the country to effectively eliminate its backlog of ships, which peaked around 30 in mid-September, through its use of pop-up container yards. The port has witnessed record monthly volumes for 18 months straight. In 2021, the Port of Savannah moved a record 5.6 million TEU, for an increase of about 20% compared to 2020.

In his comments before a capacity crowd, Lynch addressed a series of key logistics solutions, including the role six pop-up container yards – which add 500,000 TEUs of annual container space – are playing as a supply chain relief valve.

He also spoke to the nation’s trucker shortage, and how Savannah has reversed that trend by registering 80 new drivers a week to serve Garden City Terminal, or a total of 1,200 new drivers and 370 new trucking companies just since November.

“Higher demand for our services is the reason we have expedited major expansions at the Port of Savannah,” said GPA Board Chairman Joel Wooten. “Georgia’s growing manufacturing, distribution and retail sectors will mean additional cargo through the Port of Savannah, driving the need for increased container handling capacity.”

The Savannah market added 6.5 million square feet of industrial space in 2021, for a total of 84 million, according to Colliers International. Savannah led the nation in terms of net absorption of overall inventory, so the vacancy rate remains at 2.3 percent. Another 17 million square feet are now under construction, lifting the market beyond 100 million square feet to better accommodate heightened cargo volumes.

The unprecedented level of trade crossing GPA’s docks is expected to continue well into 2022, Lynch said. To handle these higher volumes, GPA will “super-size” its Berth 1, increasing on-dock capacity by 25 percent. In the spring of 2023, the expanded berth will allow Savannah to simultaneously serve four 16,000-TEU vessels as well as three additional ships. The renovations will add an estimated 1.5 million TEUs per year of berth capacity.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, which will come online in March, will deepen river channel to allow 16,000+ TEU vessels to take on heavier loads.

“This project has been more than 20 years in the making,” Lynch said. “Through it all, there has been strong support across several administrations, from the General Assembly and our congressional delegation. A special debt of gratitude goes to the late Senator Johnny Isakson, who shepherded our harbor deepening efforts through the federal process.”

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