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PortSide: Port ends year on high note, sees more growth ahead

With a record-shattering 2017 almost in the books, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch recently recapped the year and looked to 2018 and how the port is preparing for the growth ahead.

In a year-end letter to customers, Lynch said November numbers were particularly rewarding because of the strength of performance they indicated across the board.

“The ports handled 2.8 million tons of cargo in November, an increase of 8.4 percent compared to the same month a year ago,” he said, adding that while container tons increased 5.3 percent, GPA terminals also marked large increases in both breakbulk and bulk cargoes.

Breakbulk tonnage increased by 25 percent to reach 248,500 tons in November. At the Port of Savannah’s Ocean Terminal, breakbulk expansion was led by lumber, as well as iron and steel. Both categories increased by 50 percent over November 2016 in support of growing demand in construction and manufacturing. Total bulk cargo crossing GPA’s docks in November reached 170,700 tons, up 37 percent. At East River Terminal in Brunswick, terminal operator Logistec handled more than triple the business in bulk cargo compared to the same month a year ago. Most of that November growth came in increased demand for wood pellets, perlite and dry urea.

Container trade grew by nearly 3 percent to reach 309,000 TEUs for the month, making November the 13th straight month of container growth, with every month in 2017 above 300,000 TEUs at Garden City Terminal.

Last month, Drewry Maritime Advisers released its port connectivity index, ranking Savannah as North America’s most connected container port, Lynch noted.

“The index is based on the number of direct shipping services, and the number of world regions those services directly connect to,” he said. “Drewry’s research showed Savannah’s 36 weekly vessel calls provide superior service to Europe, Asia and other global destinations.”

According to the independent consulting firm, port connectivity is a significant competitive advantage.

GPA has no intention of slowing down on the competition front, recently announcing an ambitious terminal investment program that includes the delivery of four new Neo-Panamax cranes, bringing Garden City Terminal’s fleet to 30, with six more cranes arriving in 2020.

When all are commissioned, the upgrade will allow the nation’s largest single container facility to move nearly 1,300 containers per hour across a single dock.

“Also in 2018, we will open the Appalachian Regional Port, an inland rail facility in Northwest Georgia, extending our terminal gates by 388 miles,” Lynch said, adding that the inland port will offer an efficient option to an all-truck route into the Port of Savannah for target markets in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

“The availability of import, export and domestic transit will benefit shippers and beneficial cargo owners throughout the region,” he said. “As our network continues to grow, we expect to announce in 2018 the site of our next two inland terminals.”

For motor carriers, the authority is expanding truck gates at Garden City Terminal.

The $13.2 million project will increase the terminal’s gate infrastructure by 17 percent for a total of 56 truck lanes. The addition will help the GPA seamlessly absorb future growth and offer a better link to the Jimmy Deloach Parkway, which provides a direct truck route to Interstate 95, Lynch said.

On the private investment front, developers have added 4 million square feet of industrial space over the past year in the Savannah market, for a total of more than 53 million. Another 4 million square feet are under construction to serve the warehousing, transload and manufacturing sectors, he said, adding that the Port of Brunswick also is growing rapidly.

“At our Colonel’s Island autoport in Brunswick, we have increased roll-on/roll-off capacity by 50 percent, from 60,000 spaces for vehicle processing to the current 90,000,” he said. “Full build-out will provide 150,000 spaces, growing annual capacity from 800,000 vehicles to 1.4 million cars and trucks. In the coming year, we expect to enhance the terminal’s productivity through improved connections between the north and south ends of Colonel’s Island.”

Perhaps the most critical need for 2018 is one that’s essentially out of GPA’s hands – federal funding sufficient to keep the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project on track.

More on that in my next column.

As for those things it can control, Lynch said the GPA will continue to provide industry with the most efficient connections to global commerce.

“World-class terminal infrastructure and commitment to investing in the future assures growing enterprises that this is the best place to locate or expand a business,” he said.

“Coupled with private investment, Georgia is blessed with an unmatched capacity to accommodate additional business.”
Source: Business Savannah

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