4869
Views

Port of Savannah Shifts Gears to Focus on Containers Only

GPA
Image courtesy GPA

Published Dec 9, 2022 8:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Savannah is set to transform its ocean terminal into a container-only facility in order to meet booming demand for boxship capacity. 

After a yearlong sustained surge in cargo volume, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) has unveiled a plan to upgrade and realign the docks at Savannah's ocean terminal to accommodate its expanding container operations.

Under the plan, a section of the terminal that has long handled a mix of containerships and breakbulk vessels will be transformed to exclusively handle containers.   Work will begin with rebuilding the docks to provide 2,800 linear feet of berth space, capable of serving two ships simultaneously. The docks will be served by eight new STS cranes. 

Apart from new cranes and berth enhancements, the overall project will add expanded gate facilities and paving to allow for 1.5 million TEUs of annual capacity. Wharf renovations are slated to start in January next year, with completion of the entire terminal redevelopment expected in 2026. 

Breakbulk cargo will shift to the Colonel’s Island terminal at the Port of Brunswick, which has historically focused on handling high-volume ro-ro shipments. 

The realignment and upgrade, which is part of a $1.1 billion investment in infrastructure approved by GPA over the past year, will help grow the container capacity of the Port of Savannah by 60 percent by 2025. Taking all of its projects together, the authority wants enough capacity to handle 9.5 million TEU per year by the middle of the decade.  

The Port of Savannah, the U.S’s fourth-busiest container port, experienced a substantial increase in throughput in the post-pandemic era. This August and October were its busiest months ever. The growth has partly been driven by cargo volumes diverted from West Coast ports that have experienced congestion and threats of labor action.

In 2021, a boom year for containerized freight, GPA moved a record 5.6 million TEU - about 10 percent of all US containerized cargo volume. 

The pace of growth continued this year. In August, the port handled 575,000 TEU, an 18.5 percent increase compared to the same month in 2021. In October the port moved 553,000 TEU, an increase of 9.6 per cent compared to the same month last year.

With so much cargo moving through the same terminal, the port has experienced vessel backlogs. That is on track to self-resolve, just as it has at the ports of LA/Long Beach, since shipment volumes are falling off quickly in a cooling economy. 

“While we are beginning to see an anticipated market correction, it is important that GPA move forward with projects like the ocean terminal enhancements to accommodate business growth,” said Joel Wooten, GPA Board Chairman.