GPA prepares for the future, adds inland rail connectivity


Garden City Terminal at the Port of Savannah handled 49,115 containers by rail in August (approximately 89,000 TEUs), an increase of 6 percent over the same month last year. Intermodal cargo represented 21.6 percent of total containers, an uptick in that ratio of roughly 7 percent compared to August 2022.

“With our Mason Mega Rail Terminal fully operational, we now have the capacity to shift more of our long-haul cargo off state highways and onto rail, which both improves fuel efficiency and reduces traffic congestion,” GPA President and CEO Griff Lynch said.

At the GPA Board meeting, Lynch reported that Georgia Ports and CSX have worked together to provide 7-day-a-week rail departures between the Port of Savannah’s Mason Mega Rail Terminal and the railroad’s CCX Yard in Rocky Mount, NC. The Carolina Connector direct rail service will offer customers three-day transit time from vessel discharge to cargo availability. Savannah’s position as a first port of call for ocean carriers transiting the Panama Canal means cargo will be available at CCX before containers could even be unloaded from a vessel at ports farther up the coast.

August Trade

The Port of Savannah handled 413,300 TEUs in August, down 28 percent or 162,220 TEUs from August 2022, the Georgia Ports Authority’s busiest month on record.

“We are in the midst of rebuilding some of our berths which has reduced our operating capacity in August.  Container Berth 1 renovation is now complete with four new cranes operating. We have four more new crane installations almost done and ready by end of the year which will add another big berth.   At Ocean Terminal, our refurbishment is ongoing and will add another big ship berth in the 2025-2026 period,” Lynch added.  

In Roll-on/Roll-off cargo, GPA handled 61,300 units of autos and machinery last month, an increase of 8 percent or nearly 4,600 units more than August 2022. Colonel’s Island Terminal at the Port of Brunswick handled most of the Ro/Ro trade, moving 59,720 units. 

GPA strategic location

GPA’s strategic location is well-positioned for future growth. Market forces, including the growth of population and manufacturing in the U.S. Southeast, and a ‘China plus one’ sourcing shift to countries such as India are aligning to favor delivery of goods via the Port of Savannah.  China is an $18 trillion economy with a 1.4 billion population and India’s growth potential is the new frontier for business investment as the world’s most populated country. GPA’s strategic location with (first port of call after/last port of call before) the Panama Canal and access to Suez Canal routings gives customers multiple options in multiple markets to compete and win business.

“GPA’s goal is to create the best port and supply chain location to accelerate global business and connect world markets. We’re adding new infrastructure and inland connectivity to achieve this in our $1.9 billion port master plan. The state of Georgia’s leadership, GPA and the business community work together to make GPA a truly integrated port and supply chain ecosystem,” said GPA Chairman Kent Fountain at the Sept. 26th quarterly board meeting in Savannah.

Workforce Housing

In another item at Tuesday’s meeting, GPA Chief Administration Officer Jamie McCurry detailed how the GPA Savannah Area Workforce Housing Initiative will improve the maritime and manufacturing workforce. Through the initiative, the Authority has pledged $6 million over eight years to Housing Savannah, Inc. for deposit in the Savannah Affordable Housing Fund. GPA intends to make annual contributions of $750,000. 

“Savannah is growing and these funds will help improve the quality of life and housing for households living in near-port communities through the repair, construction, and purchase of affordable and workforce housing that benefits low- and moderate-income homeowners, first-time homebuyers, and renters,” McCurry commented. 

The initiative will prioritize home repairs for existing neighborhood residents and homeowners and will also support eligible applicants with down payment assistance for first-time home purchases in the Savannah area, including Garden City, Port Wentworth and the City of Savannah. 

Infrastructure updates

  • Container vessel operations in Savannah:  Renovations at Container Berth 1 were completed in August and now offer another big ship berth option, allowing Garden City Terminal to simultaneously serve seven ships, including four vessels with a capacity of 16,000+ TEUs.  Berth capacity has increased by 1.5 million TEUs.
  • In tandem with the expanded berth, GPA ordered eight new ship-to-shore cranes. The first four arrived in February and are operational. The next four (capable of 22 -wide, 24-wide reach) arrived in September and will be operational in January 2024.
  • Berth and container yard renovations are underway at Savannah’s 200-acre Ocean Terminal to serve two large container ships simultaneously and offer 2 million TEU annual capacity. Eight additional cranes have been ordered as part of the project. Renovations to the first berth will be completed in 2025, with the second completed in 2026.
  • Container storage capacity in Savannah: The Garden City Terminal West expansion is open and will add 1 million TEUs of annual storage capacity when completed in phases in 2023 and 2024.  15 electric rubber-tire gantry cranes will serve the 100-acre site.
  • RoRo at the Port of Brunswick: GPA is expanding capacity to serve growing Ro/Ro cargo volumes by developing 640,000 square feet of new processing space, 122 acres of additional auto storage and a fourth Ro/Ro berth at Colonel’s Island. Ro/Ro capacity will increase from 1.2 million to 1.4 million vehicles per year.

Georgia’s ports and inland terminals support more than 561,000 jobs throughout the state annually, and contribute $33 billion in income, $140 billion in revenue and $3.8 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy. CNBC ranked Georgia #1 in the U.S. for infrastructure in America’s Top States for Business in 2023

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