On July 24, the Georgia Ports Authority announced that it achieved record volumes in FY2017, moving an all-time high of 3.85 million TEU for the year – a seven percent increase over 2016. Growth accelerated in the second half, and June's numbers were especially strong, up by 17 percent at a record 338,000 TEU.
GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch explained that part of the increase was related to shifting trade patterns and carrier alliances. “Shipping lines are moving 13,000- and 14,000-TEU vessels into service on the East Coast more quickly than anticipated, and concentrating their deliveries at efficient gateway ports like Savannah," he said.
In April, the major ocean carriers reorganized into three alliances – THE Alliance, the Ocean Alliance and the existing 2M alliance (Maersk and MSC). In the two months after the new alliances took effect, Post-Panamax vessel exchanges at the Port of Savannah averaged 2,900 twenty-foot equivalent container units – a 30 percent increase over the same period last year. Sixty percent of the vessels in Savannah’s steamship services now exceed the traditional Panamax size.
Shifting trends are not the only factor in Georgia's success: GPA board chairman Jimmy Allgood also credits the International Longshoremen's Association, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and the state's General Assembly for their assistance.
GPA is also investing for continued growth. Its Port of Savannah is already the largest single container terminal in the United States, and the authority is purchasing additional STS cranes to boost its handling capacity to a maximum of 1,300 boxes per hour. GPA already has four cranes on order, and its board recently voted to purchase six more. "This new crane purchase . . . will enable GPA to increase crane capacity by nearly 40 percent,” Lynch said.