Georgia Ports Buck Trend Achieving Increase in TEU and Car Volumes

volume increases for Savannah
Savannah is bucking industry trends shwoing increases in TEU volume (GPA file photo)

Published Nov 14, 2022 4:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

Going against the industry trend of declining container volumes, Georgia Ports Authority continues to achieve increases in volume moving through the Port of Savannah and vehicles through the neighboring ro-ro terminal in Brunswick. In addition to the Atlantic trade, Savannah continues to benefit from shippers that decided to send their containers to U.S. East Coast ports to avoid potential problems in the southern California ports or the possibility of larger disruptions from the threatened railroad strike.

“There has been downward pressure on the total U.S. container trade related to inflation and a shift in consumer spending toward services such as restaurants and travel,” said GPA Board Chairman Joel Wooten. “However, the Port of Savannah continues to outperform relative to the national market, driving new business for Georgia.”

Last month, Savannah experienced a nearly 10 percent increase in year-over-year container volume reaching 552,800 TEU. October was GPA’s second busiest month on record after only August of this year when the Port of Savannah handled 575,500 TEUs. The GPA reports a total volume of 2.1 million TEUs for the first four months of the fiscal year that began on July 1.

The Georgia Ports Authority also highlights that the port has moved more than half a million TEUs in three of the last four months. Since July, 160 importers were either new customers at the Port of Savannah or existing customers who grew their Savannah trade by 20 percent or more. Combined this contributed to an increase of 107,000 additional TEUs compared to the previous year.

The port authority points to market data that shows Savannah and other East and Gulf Coast ports have been gaining market share relative to the West Coast. According to the most recent data from PIERS/IHS Markit, the East Coast increased its share of the container trade from 47 percent in July 2021 to 48.4 percent in July of this year.

“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,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “We can report that ships at anchor are trending downward and expanded berth capacity coming online next year will allow us to serve our growing customer base with even greater efficiency.”

Contributing to the influx in the volume is the number of ships that are now calling at Savannah. Currently, it appears based on AIS signals that there are approximately 30 containerships of all sizes waiting for berth space in the anchorage off Savannah. This is down from 35 vessels a month ago when port officials said over 200,000 teu were waiting offshore. They, however, also pointed out that it was down from a high of 262,500 teu waiting offshore in July.

The surge in volume is not limited to the container port. Port officials pointed out that car manufacturers have increased their volumes as the chip shortage experienced early in the year has eased and consumer demand for cars remains high after the low inventory on many dealers’ lots. The Port of Brunswick, which operated the ro-ro vehicle terminal, also achieved significant growth in October. Colonel’s Island Terminal handled 70,233 units, an increase of 22,045 units or nearly 46 percent.

Last month, port executives said they were expecting a gradual easing in volumes. Their outlook projected a return to a more typical rate of growth for GPA.