byExecutive Director, Georgia Ports Authority
AS THE THIRD busiest container gateway in the nation, Savannah has clearly become the preferred port for global shippers serving the U.S. Southeast and inland markets ranging from Dallas to Chicago. Over the past two fiscal years, container trade at the Port of Savannah has increased at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent. During that period, the Georgia Ports Authority handled an elevated number of ad hoc and new service vessels at the Port of Savannah, as well as record cargo exchanges per ship.
An owner-operator port authority, GPA has the ability to flex gate hours up and down based on need.
After consulting with trucking companies, GPA expanded gate hours to better serve drivers when the terminal was at its busiest.
Extended gate hours expedited infrastructure projects, and the outstanding work of our employees and partners are key to our ability to move cargo at a record pace.
Volumes remain strong, with Savannah on track to move nearly 6 million 20-foot equivalent container units by the end of its fiscal year in June 2023.
At the bustling Garden City Terminal, GPA handles more than 15,000 truck moves per weekday, including import and export transactions.
For the calendar year, GPA expects a gradual easing in demand based on several factors, including a shift in the balance of consumer spending away from goods and back to services, and the impact of inflation on the economy.
This change will represent a return to a more typical rate of growth for GPA, and it will help expedite vessel service, which saw backlogs during the height of demand.
Despite an expected lull in cargo, the GPA will continue to build additional service capacity to better handle the next influx in trade.
The GPA has had a longtime investment philosophy of maintaining capacity at least 20 percent over current demand to ensure the free flow of cargo. Recent rapid growth had outpaced the Authority’s construction schedule, so GPA expedited expansion projects that it had planned to complete years into the future.
As a result, another big ship berth at Garden City Terminal is slated to come online in July. Upon completion, the Port of Savannah will be able to simultaneously serve four 16,000-TEU vessels, as well as three additional ships. The improved berth will add 1.5 million TEUs of annual berth capacity, for a new total of 7.5 million TEUs per year. Further expansions will bring Savannah’s annual berth capacity to 9 million TEUs by 2025.
In tandem with the expanded berth, GPA has ordered eight new ship-to-shore cranes. The first four arrived in February, while the next four will arrive by the end of the year.
The Port of Savannah added 1.2 million TEUs of annual container yard capacity in 2022 and will add more this year. Work has now begun on Garden City Terminal West; 90 acres of container storage to be supported by 15 electric rubber-tired gantry cranes. The site will include a new truck gate into Garden City Terminal and a direct connector road to the Garden City Terminal main container yard. This project will add 1 million TEUs of annual capacity, coming online in phases in 2023 and 2024.
Construction is also underway for a cross-docking warehouse planned for another 90 acres of land just upriver from Garden City Terminal. The facility will allow customers to transition goods from 40-foot shipping containers to 53-foot over-the-road trailers to allow for faster and more efficient delivery to stores and warehouses. This project will be served by a yard with nine electric rubber-tired gantry cranes and provide an annual capacity of 400,000 TEUs. The expansion is scheduled for completion in July 2023.
While the global logistics network has been challenged over the past two years, our message to customers is that GPA continues to move forward with an aggressive plan to enhance our terminal operations.
In fact, GPA anticipates spending $4.5 billion over the next 12 years to expand its container-handling capabilities.
Customers continue to bring new or expanding business to the Port of Savannah, drawn by our global connectivity and the supply chain network that links Savannah to major U.S. markets. By GPA building now to accommodate future needs, cargo owners know they can rely on Georgia and its logistics service providers.