Savannah speeds up capacity projects to meet accelerated growth

THE Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) is expediting plans to add more than 1

03 May 2021 - 19:00
THE Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) is expediting plans to add more than 1.4 million TEU in annual capacity at Savannah because it now expects to handle 6 million TEU a year by 2023 rather than 2025, reports IHS Media.

With the goal of reaching 7.5 million in annual capacity by 2023, Griff Lynch, GPA executive director, recently announced multiple new projects, including a berth realignment at the Garden City Terminal and a 325-door cross-dock complex, while also pushing back the timeline for a planned 300-acre terminal at Hutchinson Island, which is downriver from Garden City, the largest container terminal in North America.

GPA expects to report an 18 per cent year-over-year increase in container volumes to 5.2 million TEU for its fiscal year ending in June. That equates to approximately 800,000 TEU more than the same period a year ago, with 500,000 TEU alone flowing through Savanah in March. Just 20 years ago, the port handled 851,000 TEU annually.

'We have to prepare to handle 6 million TEU a year because that's the trajectory that the Georgia Ports Authority is on,' Mr Lynch said. 'We know from past experience that if we're delivering 20 per cent capacity [more than is needed], truly we're among the best in the business and our service is impeccable. Right now, we are against it. Our service is good but it's not impeccable.'

The GPA now aims to open the 2.7 million TEU Hutchinson Island terminal, first announced in September 2019, in 2030/2031 rather than 2027 as first planned. The GPA decision to prioritise other expansion projects comes after the International Longshoremen's Association unsuccessfully tried to block the opening of a new Charleston container terminal, and, most recently, sued Hapag-Lloyd, OOCL, and the United States Maritime Alliance, alleging the carrier and employer groups conspired to break the main longshore contract when they allowed non-union labour to unload a ship at the new US$1.7 billion Leatherman Terminal.

Mr Lynch stressed the need to bring online new capacity now. Construction will start next week, he said, to add 650,000 TEU of capacity to Garden City and bring it online in September, when peak season for Asian imports has historically ramped up. A US$218 million rail expansion project will be completed this year, which will ultimately add 750,000 TEU of annual capacity, as will GPA's 20-year effort to deepen the channel to 47 feet from 45 feet, he said. The additional two feet of draft will allow container lines to load approximately an extra 1,000 export containers per ship, Lynch said.

With an aligned berth, set to be completed by June 2023 and equating to 1 million TEU in additional capacity, the Garden City terminal will be able to simultaneously serve four 16,000 TEU vessels, as well as three additional ships. Mr Lynch said it will develop a 90-acre cross-dock operation adjacent to the Garden City Terminal that will have a capacity of 400,000 TEU. Mr Lynch said GPA hopes to bring the grounded terminal operation with nine rubber-tyre gantries online in late summer/early fall 2022.

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