The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), which runs the ports of Savannah and Brunswick, reported its best month ever in May for container traffic and total tonnage, helped by an inflow of cargo diverted from West Coast ports that struggled with labor-management disturbances earlier in the year.
The Port of Savannah, the nation's fourth-busiest containerport, reported a monthly record of 338,000 twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) containers handled in May, a 16.4-percent increase from year-earlier levels. The Port handled 2.9 million tons, a 9.6-percent increase over May 2014. The Port of Brunswick, which just handles bulk cargoes, reported a 60-percent year-over-year increase, the port authority said.
This is the third consecutive month of all-time monthly records at the GPA ports.
GPA attributed much of the gain to the appeal of its strong logistics infrastructure that offers importers and exporters robust connectivity between the ports and inland markets. The port complex also benefited from cargoes originating from or destined for Asia that would normally have moved through West Coast ports but instead were shifted eastward during a nearly yearlong contract battle between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and waterfront management represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). The dispute, which affected operations at 29 ports, caused massive vessel delays and shipment backlogs, especially at key ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach, Seattle/Tacoma, and Oakland.
Both sides agreed to a new five-year contract in February, but it still took several weeks to clear out the backlogs. The contract was ratified in late May.
Through the fall and winter months, many businesses that diverted cargo eastward discovered they were happy with the service quality and the less-volatile labor environment and chose to make those new routings permanent. GPA officials said the port received a meaningful amount of diverted cargo, but that it is impossible to quantify the increase. Some shipments that migrated east have returned to their normal routings as normal operations on the West Coast are restored, according to GPA officials.