Port of Savannah records best-ever August for container throughput

THE Port of Savannah handled 441,600 TEU in August, marking not only the best August on record, but the best overall month on record in the history of the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA)

24 September 2020 - 19:00

THE Port of Savannah handled 441,600 TEU in August, marking not only the best August on record, but the best overall month on record in the history of the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA).

The port also recently set another record with the largest container ship to ever dock on the east coast calls on the Port of Savannah with the arrival of the CMA CGM Brazil.

'We were very pleased and surprised. I hate to say that, but we were not planning on this type of growth or any growth for that matter, but we were happy to see a record TEU count for August,' said GPA executive director Griff Lynch.

'We didn't shatter the record, but I think when we look around what's really interesting is, when we look around, and we see what's happening, not every port is telling this story,' Mr Lynch said.

Nearby at the Port of Charleston, the South Carolina Ports handled 208,837 TEU in August, down about 10 per cent year over year, Savannah Morning News reported.

Mr Lynch said looking around the country the ports that grew along with Savannah were major gateway ports, such as Los Angeles/Long Beach, which also recorded its best August in history last month moving 725,610 TEU.

'This is kind of the story that we've been telling for a while, that we are among the largest, and customers are now being selective as to the ports they want to use and consolidating. And that's what we're enjoying now,' he said.

And while part of the growth in August was due to retailers restocking and replenishing ahead of the stronger than anticipated holiday season, Mr Lynch also attributes it to several infrastructure projects that have been in the works for some time.

Projects such as the US$5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion, which was completed in 2016 and accommodates ships that carry up to three times the cargo of those previously able to use the canal and the Savannah Harbour Deepening Project (SHEP), have helped to grow the market share in Savannah, he said.

The first phase of SHEP, which included deepening the outer harbour from near Fort Pulaski National Monument to 19 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, was completed in March 2018.

The final stage to deepen the inner harbour, which consists of 22 miles in the channel from near Jones Island to the Garden City port and will take the depth from 42 feet to 47 feet, began in early October 2019. Jones Island is between Fort Pulaski and Tybee Island.

The project has a benefit-to-cost ratio of 7.3 to 1 and every foot of water depth equals another 200 potential containers.

'The deepening of the harbour is now 75 per cent complete, it's just really exciting,' Mr Lynch said.

The GPA also set a record for intermodal cargo in August with containers moved by rail increasing 1 per cent compared to August 2019. Mr Lynch said while overall rail was up 1 per cent, other markets, such as Memphis, were up 8 per cent.

'That doesn't happen unless we are collectively working together to share the story that's happening in Georgia, which is, 'we're not only open for a local distribution market, not only open for Atlanta, but also open for inland points like Memphis,' he said.

Looking ahead, Mr Lynch said with it only being two months into the fiscal year he is cautious but expects September and October to also be strong months. But, looking at the calendar year from January through August, the numbers are still down 6 per cent compared to last year.

'There are questions around what will our market look like after October after the peak is over,' he said.

'We're hoping for the best, but this is early in our fiscal year, we're only two months in and we got a long way to go.'

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