Georgia Ports Authority lays out Savannah expansion plans

Georgia Ports Authority lays out Savannah expansion plans
Garden City Terminal

The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) plans to double capacity at the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal to 11m teu per year, as US East Coast ports continue in their efforts to become more competitive on multiple trade routes.

The Port of Savannah moved a record 4.5m teu in the 2019 fiscal year, a 7% increase, with the hub handling 507,000 intermodal boxes, up 17%.

GPA executive director Griff Lynch said: “The market has clearly chosen the Port of Savannah as the Southeastern hub for containerized trade.

“To fulfill the growing responsibility placed on our deepwater terminals, we have developed a plan to double our capacity.”

The authority hopes to expand beyond its 1,200-acre footprint at Garden City Terminal to establish a new container port on Hutchinson Island, across the Savannah River channel.

In 2020, the terminal will receive six additional STS cranes, bringing its fleet to 36, more than any other terminal in North America.

Within three years, the port authority plans a berth realignment to allow docking for more 14,000 teu vessels on the downriver end of the terminal.

By 2027, the additional cranes, revamped dock space and a new Hutchinson Island terminal are meant to allow the Port of Savannah to significantly increase big ship capacity.

GPA board chairman Will McKnight stated: “What has set Savannah above the competition is our ability to scale up in advance of market needs, so that we are ready when our customers are ready to grow.

“Our terminal infrastructure plan adheres to our investment philosophy of always keeping infrastructure ahead of current demand. This will ensure the GPA is prepared to handle the next wave of cargo expansion.”

Additionally, the US Army Corps of Engineers is now in the final phase of the Savannah Harbour Expansion Project. The Corps is expected to issue contracts this year to dredge the inner harbour, which makes up the final half of the deepening.

A dual rail service from the Port of Savannah to Chicago has also been launched, with cargo reaching the Windy City in less than three days.

Lynch added: “We’re now moving containers from ship to departing rail in only 24 hours – two and a half times faster than our previous schedule – which makes Savannah competitive on time and lower on cost compared to traditional cargo routings.”

In order to accommodate increasing rail demand, the port authority is in the midst of a US$220m expansion of its on-terminal rail infrastructure.

McKnight stated: “The Mason Mega Rail Terminal will be the largest on-dock rail facility at any port in North America. It will allow the authority to shift more of its cargo mix from truck to rail, so that we can grow our overall volumes without congestion at our truck gates.”

Construction on Phase I of GPA’s Mason Mega Rail Terminal will be complete in the spring, with a grand opening slated for March 2020.

When Phase II opens in late 2020, the project will double the port’s rail lift capacity to 1m teu per year.