Plans under way for “largest single-terminal container facility in the western hemisphere”

Written by Andrew Corselli, Managing Editor
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A Hapag Lloyd vessel with a capacity of 13,300 twenty-foot equivalent container units is worked at the Georgia Ports Authority Garden City Terminal in Savannah, Ga. (Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen B. Morton)

The St. Louis Regional Freightway and the Port of Savannah are forging a partnership to create a new connection between the St. Louis, Mo., region and what aims to be “the largest single-terminal container facility in the western hemisphere.”

In response to record movement of 4.3 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in the 2017 fiscal year, the Port of Savannah is investing $3 billion to increase its containerized cargo capacity from 5 to 8 million TEUs by 2028. The investment will “accelerate the efforts of the nation’s third-busiest container gateway to better support retailers and manufacturers and distribute more goods to and from the interior of the United States.”

The Port of Savannah has identified the St. Louis region as “a key import/export market to which containers can consistently be distributed at a lower cost for shippers.”

Imperative to the development plan is a new $220 million rail terminal that plans to be the largest on-terminal rail facility in North America by 2020. The rail expansion hopes to improve efficiency and double terminal rail lift capacity to approximately 1 million containers per year.

The unit train capacity on terminal aims to build density into the system and enable rail providers CSX and Norfolk Southern to deliver faster, more frequent rail service to Midwest markets, where both rail companies already have established intermodal yards. Both railroads provide a direct link between the Port of Savannah on the East Coast and the St. Louis region.

John Trent, Senior Director of Strategic Operations and Safety at the Georgia Ports Authority, which owns and operates the Port of Savannah, talked about the new rail service—he said it would be an attractive alternative to shipping by rail from the West Coast to St. Louis. He cited research that revealed the cost to shippers using the new service would be $300 to $400 less for each container moved—and the total time in transit would be comparable. He added that the rail service would be consistent from Savannah, a distinct advantage over more traditional gateways.

“We offer a premium, lower-cost option and, in addition, we provide that consistency,” said Trent. “We believe we have a viable solution to not only support existing business in the St. Louis region, but also to grow business in the St. Louis region.”

Mary Lamie, Executive Director of the St. Louis Regional Freightway, and other St. Louis-area freight industry professionals are excited about the project.

“I cannot overstate the potential of this new partnership and the opportunities it can create to develop stronger links between our region’s world-class freight capabilities and national and global supply chains,” Lamie said.

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