FreightWaves SONAR: Savannah Expansion Projects Position Region for Intermodal Growth

Written by Joanna Marsh, FreightWaves
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Mason Mega Rail milestone enables rail capacity expansion.

The Port of Savannah is poised to expand service and rail capacity as the Mason Mega Rail project meets a production milestone.

Nine of 18 working tracks have started operations on the project at the Port of Savannah, with two rail-mounted gantry cranes to be commissioned in June. These tracks will make moving containers from trains to trucks more efficient, according to the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA).

Savannah Outbound Intermodal Volume: 90%+ International (Primarily 40’) Containers

FreightWaves SONAR: Blue line represents total outbound container volume from Savannah while the green and orange lines represent a breakdown into international intermodal and domestic intermodal, respectively

“At the Port of Savannah, we are working to improve the efficiency of the American supply chain and move goods to market even faster,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “These efforts are strengthening our logistics network at a time when the nation needs it most.”

The project has been underway for more than four years and was designed to increase the port’s reach in the U.S. southeastern and midwestern markets. About 56,000 feet of the total 129,000 feet of track has been installed so far. 

The Port of Savannah has access to CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) railroads. GPA said the Mason Mega Rail Terminal will double GPA’s rail capacity to 1 million container lifts annually and enable the handling of 2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

More Than Half of Outbound Savannah Intermodal Volume Terminates in Atlanta

FreightWaves SONAR: Blue line represents total outbound intermodal volume from Savannah. Green line represents intermodal volume that originates in Savannah and terminates in Atlanta.

The U.S. Maritime Administration provided some grant money to the project.

“The Mason Mega Rail Terminal is an incredible example of the federal government and the port authority working together to keep America’s commerce moving ahead,” said GPA Board Chairman Will McKnight. “Even during this [COVID-19] crisis, the disciplined effort involved has been a testament to the vital importance we all place on this nationally significant project.”

Import Volume Clearing Customs at Savannah is Well Below Year-Ago Levels

FreightWaves SONAR: 2020 and 2019 Savannah U.S. customs maritime import volume, inclusive of both containerized and non-containerized freight, in blue and green, respectively.

GPA also said a new overpass on State Road 25 is nearing completion. The overpass, which is expected to open in August, will carry road traffic over eight tracks linking the current Chatham Yard on the south side of the Garden City Terminal with the Mason Mega Rail site to the northwest, GPA said.

Earlier this year, GPA leaders laid out plans to double Savannah’s capacity to more than 9 million TEUs by 2030.

Dredging Under Way at Port of Savannah

Four dredges are occurring simultaneously in the Savannah harbor, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on May 31.

Dredging deepens the harbor, enabling larger container ships to come to the port and enter and leave the harbor during a longer tide window. 

The dredging is part of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, which is approximately 62% complete. The outer harbor, a 20-mile channel extending to the Atlantic Ocean, has already been deepened to 49 feet. The inner harbor dredging is the final part of the project. Two dredges in the inner harbor will deepen it to 47 feet, while two other dredges will deepen parts of the harbor to a 42-foot depth. 

Truck Capacity to Atlanta Not as Loose as a Month Ago, But Not Tight

Truckload carriers are currently rejecting 5% of tendered loads for the half-day trip from Savannah to Atlanta vs. 8% of all outbound Savannah loads.

FreightWaves SONAR: Blue line represents the percent of loads carriers are rejecting that are outbound from Savannah (a higher number indicates a tighter market); the green line represents the percent of loads carriers are rejecting only in the Savannah to Atlanta lane.

Federal and state funds are paying for the dredging, while the Georgia Department of Transportation and Georgia Ports Authority serve as state sponsors. 

“The Savannah District continues to manage the intensely complicated task of coordinating dredge actions and placement of dredged material to ensure safety, compliance with contract requirements and timeliness to reach our goal of completing this major deepening in January 2022,” said Col. Daniel H. Hibner, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Savannah District. “This effort ensures the harbor will improve the ability of Savannah to meet the demands of today and tomorrow.”

Port Volume Leads Outbound Rail Volume; Capacity Expansion Projects Suggest that Savannah Will Be a Growing Outbound Rail Market When Volume Returns

FreightWaves SONAR: The blue line represents outbound rail intermodal volume from Savannah (both international and domestic) and the green line represents maritime import shipments clearing customs at the Port of Savannah (includes both containerized and non-containerized freight)

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