Rail Cargo Drives Volume Growth at Port of Savannah

Rendering of the Mason Mega Rail Terminal, currently under construction (GPA)

By The Maritime Executive 04-19-2018 07:18:00

In March, the Georgia Ports Authority continued its run of record-setting volume growth, with container handling up 14 percent relative to the same period last year. For the fiscal year to date, volumes are up nine percent to a total of more than three million TEU, a new record for the Port of Savannah. 

“March marked our 17th consecutive month of business expansion thanks, in part, to a strong economy and growing market share," said GPA executive director Griff Lynch. 

Intermodal rail is helping to drive this growth, with rail volumes up 20 percent in March. About ten percent of the port's volume over the past nine months was handled by rail. “As the numbers show, our rail cargo is growing at a faster pace than our overall trade,” said GPA Chairman Jimmy Allgood. “We anticipate our rail infrastructure investments to take 250,000 trucks off the road each year by 2020.” 

To prepare for continued growth, last month GPA broke ground on its new Mason Mega Rail Terminal project at the Port of Savannah. When complete, the terminal will allow the port to build its own 10,000 foot unit trains and handle all rail switching on its own facilities. The $125 million development will double the port's rail capacity to one million containers per year, helping rail lines CSX and Norfolk Southern expand service to markets throughout the South and Midwest. It is also expected to improve traffic flows around the port. 

“This project is a game changer,” said GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood. “Our team estimates the Mason Mega Rail Terminal will slash rail time to the Midwest by a good 24 hours, and present a viable new option for many manufacturers, shippers and logistics professionals.” 

In addition, GPA is expanding inland. Beginning in August, its new Appalachian Regional Port will provide shippers in northern Alabama, southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia access to rail for cargo shipments to and from the Port of Savannah. The inland port will have three electric RTGs, and will be able to transfer about 50,000 containers between trucks and rail cars annually.