Georgia Ports Authority Sees Booming Volume Thanks to Regional Growth

Georgia Ports director Griff Lynch (courtesy GPA)

Published Oct 22, 2020 8:22 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Georgia Ports Authority holds an annual "state of the port" address to highlight the region's growing economy and its growing cargo volumes, but like so many events this year, the gathering has gone virtual for 2020. On Thursday, GPA executive director Griff Lynch addressed online attendees from the authority's headquarters at the Port of Savannah. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 era, he had good news to report.

From July through September, the Port of Savannah handled 1.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units, an increase of 1.6 percent over the same period last year. The port set a monthly record in September, up 11 percent for a total of 412,000 TEU for the month. 

“We appreciate the decisions of cargo owners to place their trust in Georgia. As our economy recovers, customers continue to be attracted by Savannah’s strong fundamentals – including the people who make our ports work,” Lynch said. “I want to thank our GPA employees, the International Longshoremen’s Association and our many partners across the logistics industry for their dedication to service."

He also used the occasion to announce new business investments in the port's hinterlands. Medline Industries, the largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies in the U.S., will soon be building a new 1.2 million square foot facility about 15 miles to the southwest of the port. FedEx will lease about 415,000 square feet of the new space to support e-commerce shipments. Construction is expected to be complete in late 2021.

Distribution centers are expanding fast in and around Georgia's Chatham County, and they are a major driver for the port's cargo volume. According to real estate firm Cushman Wakefield, the Savannah market currently has about 79 million square feet of industrial space. Another 8.7 million square feet are under construction, and Lynch noted there is enough land permitted for development to accommodate another 130 million square feet of distribution center space within 30 miles of the port. In Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties, private investors announced more than half a billion dollars in industrial projects and more than 1,200 jobs over the course of the port's last fiscal year, according to Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Lynch also highlighted the port's ongoing infrastructure improvements, which include:

- deepening the harbor to 47 feet, with completion expected in late 2021.

-  a new rail terminal which will double the Port of Savannah’s annual rail capacity to two million TEU. Nine new working tracks have been commissioned, with another nine slated for completion in 2021.

- Expanding container handling capabilities at Ocean Terminal to serve smaller ships while berth renovations are ongoing at Garden City. This project will be completed by the end of 2020.

- Straightening Berth 1 to allow Savannah's Garden City Terminal to dock four 15,000 TEU vessels and three more vessels simultaneously. 

- Expanding container storage onto 145 acres recently added to Garden City Terminal.