Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia Inc., the U.S. manufacturing arm of the Korean automaker, will partner with the operator of the state-owned inland port in Cordele to move up to 30,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers of imported parts by rail from the Port of Savannah to Cordele, state officials said today.
Under the partnership, Kia parts will move by rail to Cordele, where they will then be trucked to the automaker's manufacturing plant in West Point, about 126 miles away. The alliance, which will double the amount of traffic now moving through the inland facility, will take 6 million truck miles off of state roads, as well as Georgia's portion of the Interstate Highway System, state officials said. It will also cut down on vehicle-miles travelled because Kia had been trucking imported parts from Savannah to West Point, a distance of 185 to 205 miles, depending on the route taken.
The West Point facility, which opened in 2010, has annual production capacity of 360,000 vehicles, according to state of Georgia data.
The Cordele port complex, located about 100 miles north of the Florida-Georgia line near Interstate 75, serves southwest Georgia, southern Alabama and western Florida. Most of its export business moving from inland points to the port consists of cotton, clay, lumber, and agricultural commodities. It is currently served by a handful of short-line rail providers.
A second facility, located in Chatsworth in northwest Georgia, recently received state funding for construction. It is expected to open in 2018 and will connect Savannah with parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky.
Inland ports have grown in popularity in recent years as a cost-effective, environmentally friendly rail-intermodal alternative to trucks in connecting with key seaports. The Chatsworth rail route, which will be served by Jacksonville-based CSX Corp., the eastern rail giant, will reduce the need for northwest Georgia shippers to route exports bound for Savannah, located in the state's southeast corner, through metropolitan Atlanta by truck. The rail service is expected to cut Atlanta truck traffic by 40,000 moves annually, according to the Georgia Ports Authority, which operates the Port of Savannah.