Brunswick Could Become Busiest U.S. Ro/Ro Port

Images courtesy Georgia Ports Authority

By The Maritime Executive 2017-10-26 18:41:01

The Georgia Ports Authority says that its auto processing capacity at the Port of Brunswick Colonel’s Island Terminal increased by 50 percent over the past 12 months, raising the possibility that it could become the biggest ro/ro port operation in the nation in future years. 

“We’ve been implementing an aggressive growth plan, enabling GPA and our auto processing partners to win new customers and capture greater market share,” said GPA executive director Griff Lynch.

The ro/ro terminal has expanded from 60,000 spaces in 2016 to 90,000 spaces today, for a total capacity of 800,000 cars per year. The additional space already has been absorbed by auto processors Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, Mercedes and International Auto Processors. The three port customers have increased their operations by a total of 200 acres on the island’s south side, bringing auto processing space to 600 acres.

“Last year, we told you we would be implementing an infrastructure investment philosophy we’ve used at Savannah’s container operation for years now,” said GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood. “That philosophy is to maintain capacity above current demand. Investing for the future has enabled the GPA to take on new customers and handle greater than expected container growth without congestion or capacity worries. We anticipate the same benefits for the auto trade here in Brunswick.”

In addition to the extra parking space and auto processing capacity, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintenance dredging is expected to bring the Brunswick River to its full authorized depth of 36 feet in 2018, supported by $15 million in federal funding from FY2017 and FY2018. “We are happy to report that the upward trend in harbor maintenance funding appears to be continuing into the current fiscal year," Lynch said.
The port authority’s plans call for further expansion that will allow the GPA to move, process and store some 1.4 million vehicles annually. In FY2017, the GPA handled 607,000 units of ro/ro cargo in Brunswick – still shy of the total at Port of Baltimore, the nation’s busiest port for ro/ro cargo, but GPA says that it is getting closer every year. GPA’s combined ro/ro cargo for Savannah and Brunswick ranks as the nation’s second-busiest operation, and Georgia has been adding volume faster than competitors. Over the past 10 years, Brunswick has led the nation with a growth rate of 8 percent, far outstripping other American ro/ro ports.