Savannah enjoys ‘better than expected’ fiscal year amid COVID-19 chaos

Ship to shore cranes move cargo into the night at the Georgia Ports Authority's Port of Savannah Garden City Terminal, Wednesday, March, 25, 2020, in Garden City, Ga. (GPA Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

The Port of Savannah saw its TEU traffic fall by just 1% in the fiscal year 2020 despite the the COVID-19 pandemic as is continues to be one of the best performing and fastest growing ports in the US.

In a statement, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) said it handled 4.44 million TEU as declines in cargo volume were offset by strong export markets. When measured by tonnage, container throughput reached 33.5 million tonnes, a fiscal year record and increase of 2%

Griff Lynch, GPA’s executive director credited the “better than expected performance” to “excellent teamwork” from the board of directors, the International Longshoremen’s Association, the shipping lines and the hinterland operators.

The announcement marks the latest achievement from the GPA, which has fared relatively well during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other major US ports.

At the end of June it became the US’ biggest hub for containerised agricultural goods, proof if its importance to regional and national trade.

“What sets Savannah apart from the competition is the sheer capacity of the port’s ever-expanding footprint, on and off the terminal,” said Will McKnight, GPA’s board chairman.

“Not only are we focused on the future and providing even greater value to our customers, but we have nearly unlimited potential and capacity to grow our business.”

In Northwest Georgia, the Appalachian Regional Port (ARP) handled more than three and a half times the cargo it did the year before, moving 27,132 containers, up 19,610 boxes.

“As more customers learn the value the ARP brings to their operations, the facility continues to gain traction and build momentum,” Lynch said. “The inland port is a real success story for GPA, and we forecast business there to continue growing.”

At the GPA board meeting on 27 July, Lynch reported the first nine of 18 Mason Mega Rail tracks are now moving cargo at the Port of Savannah, two new mobile harbor cranes have been added to Savannah’s Ocean Terminal and a new container yard will be completed at Ocean Terminal by year’s end.

Twenty new rubber-tired gantry cranes are slated to arrive at Savannah terminals by December, three new rail-mounted gantry cranes are scheduled to go into service by the end of FY2021, and construction will start soon on the upcoming straightening of Berth 1 at Garden City Terminal to handle more 15,000-TEU vessels.

The GPA is also upgrading Berth 2 at Colonel’s Island in Brunswick for dedicated Roll-on/Roll-off service.

Lynch said adding new container yard space, doubling rail capacity to 2 million TEUs per year, and growing the fleet of yard and vessel cranes are all parts of GPA’s plan to increase annual capacity from 6 to 11 million TEUs.

“We’re confident in the long-term strength of the U.S. economy and our ability to help port users reach their customers more effectively,” Lynch said.

“We’re building now to be ready to take advantage of new opportunities.”

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