September 20, 2018

Savannah to bump box capacity to 8 million TEUs in 10 years, Lynch says

GPA's executive director outlines plan to raise capacity from 5.5 million TEUs.

By DC Velocity Staff

The executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), which runs the container port of Savannah and roll-on, roll-off, bulk and breakbulk port of Brunswick, outlined today a 10-year plan to expand GPA's Garden City container terminal to handle 8 million twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) containers, up from the current 5.5 million TEU capacity.

The plan described by Griff Lynch at the "Savannah State of the Port" event will cost about $2.5 billion over the 10-year period. Its centerpiece will be the "Mason Mega Rail" facility, which will resemble an arc encompassing the southeast and Midwest, extend Savannah's reach as far west as St. Louis, and double the port's rail capacity to 1 million lifts—a box onloaded to and off-loaded from a railcar is considered one lift--by 2020 when the operation is expected to launch. On Monday, the GPA board approved a $92 million expenditure for 23 miles of track to to accommodate 10,000-foot long unit trains—trains dedicated to the traffic of one customer—that will operate on the network.

In its most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, Savannah handled a record 4.2 million TEUs, up 8.4 percent from the previous fiscal year. Rail lifts rose 16.1 percent to 435,000 lifts, also a record.

Savannah has benefitted from its reputation among shippers and beneficial cargo owners as an excellent landside operation, a shift in volumes from West Coast ports following the labor-management impasse on the West Coast in late 2014 and early 2015, and the June 2016 opening of the expanded Panama Canal. About 44 percent of Garden City's FY 2018 throughput was cargo handled on container services transiting the Canal, according to GPA data. That compared to 36 percent in FY 2017 and 32 percent in FY 2016, the port authority said.

 "We're preparing to redefine the Port of Savannah as not simply the load center for the southeastern U.S., but as the port of choice for major inland markets east of the Mississippi River," Lynch said in remarks delivered at the event. 

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