The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) said its board approved capital improvement projects that will increase the Port of Savannah’s container capacity by 20%.
“Right now, we are moving container volumes that we did not expect to see for another four years,” GPA executive director Griff Lynch said.“[So] we are expediting capacity projects that will increase the speed and fluidity of cargo handling at the Port of Savannah.”
The board approved a terminal enhancement dubbed the Peak Capacity project, which will establish 2,100 new grounded container slots. The project will add 650,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units of annual container yard capacity in two phases, with the first opening in September.
“Georgia’s container trade has experienced unprecedented growth over the past six months,” said GPA Board Chairman Will McKnight. “This addition is among several that will address the needs of port users experiencing a sharp increase in demand, while also preparing Savannah to take on additional business over the long term.”
In its busiest February ever, the Port of Savannah moved 390,804 TEUs of cargo, an increase of 7.2%, or 26,400 TEUs compared to February 2020.
Between September and February, GPA also handled 2.64 million TEUs, an increase of nearly 375,000, or 16.5%, compared to the same six-month period a year ago.
“In terms of cargo volumes, we’ve added the equivalent of an extra month of trade since September,” Lynch said.
In addition to the Peak Capacity project, the board approved a Berth 1 renovation that will increase berth capacity by an estimated 1 million TEUs per year by June 2023 — bringing the Garden City Terminal’s new total to 6 million TEUs of annual berth capacity.
Increasing big ship capability
In other projects aimed at increasing Savannah’s big ship capability, the GPA said its Board approved in November the purchase of eight new ship-to-shore cranes — replacing six older models, bringing Savannah’s fleet to 38.
The eight taller cranes will arrive in 2023, allowing Garden City Terminal to serve more 15,000+ TEU vessels.
GPA also said Savannah’s harbour deepening, a Corps of Engineers project will reach substantial completion by the end of Calendar Year 2021, providing greater scheduling flexibility for vessel transit.
The GPA Board on Monday also approved the purchase of 20 new rubber-tired gantry cranes. The new RTGs will be tall enough to stand over six containers, one higher than Savannah’s older RTGs, allowing for additional capacity in the same terminal footprint.
On Feb. 22, an expanded container operation came online at Savannah’s Ocean Terminal, bringing annual capacity there to 250,000 TEUs.
“The new capacity at OT will ensure our shipping line customers see no service delays while GPA is straightening Berth 1 at Garden City Terminal,” McKnight said. “In light of unprecedented demand, we’re taking advantage of every opportunity to grow capacity at our deepwater terminals.”
Since the upswing in containerized cargo began last fall, GPA has seen significant growth in categories such as machinery, appliances and electronics; hardware and houseware; food; furniture; apparel; and textiles.
Rail cargo in an upswing
The Port of Savannah also saw rail cargo outpaced the growth of the overall container trade in February, with intermodal lifts at Garden City Terminal reaching approximately 77,500 TEUs for the month, an increase of 12.6%, or nearly 8,700 TEUs.
It said the Appalachian Regional Port also had its busiest February ever, with the inland rail yard handling 4,955 TEUs of trade.
GPA said it has also received a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers to develop a fourth berth for Ro/Ro cargo at Colonel’s Island Terminal in Brunswick. The project, currently in the engineering phase, will provide increased speed and flexibility in auto processing.