During his annual State of the Port Address, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch announced record cargo volumes, infrastructure development and two new customers bringing a combined 1 million square feet of additional distribution center space to Savannah.
“We’re expanding on all fronts,” Lynch said. “We’re adding market share through organic growth and the addition of new accounts, and we’re building the new infrastructure necessary to continue processing this cargo with world-class efficiency.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who attended the event hosted by the Savannah Propeller Club, credited the Authority Board and the GPA team for achieving growth of 8.3 percent in total tonnage across all terminals during Fiscal Year 2017, and doing it safely and without congestion. Savannah handled 3.85 million twenty-foot equivalent units, and Brunswick moved 607,000 auto and machinery units. No other port in the Southeast recorded greater volumes for these commodities.
“Our ports’ outstanding FY17 performance highlights the value these assets bring to economic development throughout Georgia,” Deal said. “Growing capabilities in Savannah and Brunswick support the expansion of manufacturing and distribution, and the jobs these private developments provide for our citizens.”
GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood said the success of Georgia’s thriving logistics industry is due to a unified vision of the state’s future.
“Like most enterprises, it starts from the top, with Governor Deal, who has been a tireless champion of our ports and logistics networks,” Allgood said. “Both the Governor’s and the Legislature’s support of port deepening and transportation projects have helped make Savannah and Brunswick what they are today. None of this would have been possible without GPA’s leadership team and 1,200 employees whose dedication to superior service is second to none.”
During his presentation, Lynch announced two major e-commerce developments. Noble House, a national furniture supplier, will build a 630,000 square-foot facility to serve the eastern half of the U.S., while home accessories company Best Choice will build 345,000 square feet. These announcements are in addition to 3 million square feet of distribution center space completed within the last year, and 5.2 million square feet currently under construction. Including Thursday’s announcements, this new activity will bring Savannah’s industrial inventory to more than 57 million square feet, of which less than 2 percent is currently available.
“Today’s announcements are the result of the strong collaboration of Georgia’s entire maritime community, including GPA, the International Longshoremen’s Association, stevedores, motor carriers, rail and third-party service providers,” Lynch said. “We thank Noble House and Best Choice and the many other business leaders who have selected Georgia and the Georgia Ports this year. E-commerce is a growing opportunity for Georgia as companies take advantage of cost savings related to landing cargo closer to population centers in the Eastern U.S.”
Port-related e-commerce announcements from FY2017 include an 846,000 square-foot distribution center for Wayfair, which will add 150 jobs; and a 753,000 square-foot facility for Tory Burch, bringing another 150 jobs to Georgia.
Lynch outlined plans to accommodate record growth and expand new markets. Those plans include:
- A $128 million Mega-Rail Project. Additional track on terminal will allow the GPA to better handle 10,000-foot long unit trains. More efficient rail offerings will position Savannah to rapidly increase service to an arc of inland markets, from Atlanta to Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and the Ohio Valley. Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of Calendar Year 2018. Completion is expected at the end of 2020.
- Growing Savannah’s crane fleet. The Port of Savannah has 10 Super Post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes on order, for a total of 36 cranes. Four will arrive in 2018, and the final six by 2020. Having 36 cranes on dock will allow Garden City Terminal to move 1,300 containers per hour on and off vessels.
- The Appalachian Regional Port. The GPA broke ground on this inland rail yard in Chatsworth, Ga., in FY2017. Its completion in the fall of 2018 will cut Atlanta truck traffic by 50,000 trips per year, and expand GPA’s reach into Tennessee, Northeast Alabama and parts of Kentucky.
- Adding capacity for motor carriers. The GPA will expand its current gate structure by adding six truck lanes, giving Garden City Terminal a total of 54 lanes, a 12.5 percent increase.
- Statewide logistics expansion. Off-terminal, the state of Georgia is investing $10 billion over 10 years into freight mobility. The plan will create dedicated truck lanes, alleviate traffic and improve safety across the state. Within five years, the state will deliver the Brampton Road Connector, linking Garden City Terminal to I-516, and extend the Jimmy Deloach Parkway from I-95 to I-16. This will form a complete cargo beltway for motor carriers between the port and the interstate system.
- The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. Overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the project will deepen the outer harbor to 49 feet at low tide (56 feet at high tide), and the inner harbor to 47 feet (54 feet at high tide). SHEP is 35 percent complete, with a finish date in late 2020. It will allow the largest vessels calling on the Port of Savannah to take on heavier loads and to transit the river without having to wait for high tide. Since the opening of the expanded Panama Canal at the start of FY2017, the percentage of the fleet calling on Savannah that are neo-Panamax vessels has grown from 42 percent to 60 percent.