Hurricane Ian stunts Georgia Port Authority September box volumes


Hurricane Ian’s closure of the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) last month led to a drop in the port’s September container volumes.

A near three-day suspension of vessel service related to Hurricane Ian impacted September operations at the booming port.

The Port of Savannah processed 436,279 TEU last month, a 7.6 per cent drop compared to September 2021 levels.

Container volumes by nearly 10 per cent in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2023, however.

The GPA handled more than 1.5 million TEU in the first quarter of the fiscal year (July-September).

This is a growth of 135,000 TEU, or 9.6 per cent over the same period last year.

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“A high number of ad hoc vessel calls, the addition of three new Mediterranean services, and one new service to Asia contributed to the growth,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch.

“Additionally, our regular services have been arriving with significantly more cargo destined for Savannah.”

Lynch said the average vessel exchange grew from 3,500 TEU per ship this time last year, to 4,500 TEU across the past three months.

The Port of Savannah handled 776,067 TEU of loaded and empty exports in the first quarter, while import trade totalled 766,525 TEU.

Loaded containers represented 70 per cent of the total container trade.

In intermodal rail, GPA grew lifts 6.4 per cent in the first quarter.

Counting all rail cargo moved through Garden City Terminal, the Appalachian Regional Port and GPA’s pop-up container yards, rail lifts totalled nearly 146,000 for the three-month period, an increase of 8,775.

A shift in consumer spending and inflation pressures are expected to moderate demand for port services in the coming months, Lynch commented.

“While we have seen powerful growth across the first quarter, we are beginning to see signs of correction in the market,” he said.

GPA Board Chairman Joel Wooten said the authority’s outlook for the rest of the calendar year is strong, but moderated compared to the rate of growth experienced over the past two years.

“We’re expecting a gradual easing in demand based on several factors, including a shift in the balance of consumer spending away from goods and back to services, and the impact of inflation on the economy,” Wooten said.

“After having increased trade at a compound annual growth rate of 14 perm cent over the past two fiscal years, this change will represent a return to a more typical rate of growth for GPA.”

An easing of demand should help US ports address vessel backlogs brought on by unprecedented import volumes.

The Port of Savannah expects to clear the need for vessels to wait at anchor by the end of November.

Presently, approximately 204,600 containers are on the water headed for Savannah, down from a high of 262,500 in July.

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