For GPA, Container Volume Down in December, ‘Renewed Strength’ Expected in 2024

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
(GPA Photograph)

(GPA Photograph)

The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) handled 422,300 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in December 2023, down 4% or nearly 18,500 TEUs from the prior-year period, the Port reported Jan. 30. Its Port of Savannah ended Calendar Year 2023 with a total of 4.9 million TEUs, falling 16% from CY2022. “Higher inflation rates and interest rates slowed consumer spending resulting in higher inventories in warehouses,” according to GPA.

“With the new year, we are beginning to see renewed strength in container volumes, which should result in more favorable comparisons moving forward the next six months,” said GPA President and CEO Griff Lynch, who noted that GPA is committed to investing $4.2 billion in capacity improvements over the next 10 years.

The Norfolk Southern (NS) and CSX-served Mason Mega Rail intermodal facility at the Port of Savannah is growing volumes with a 10% percent increase through the first six months of fiscal year 2024 (starting July 1, 2023) vs. the same period in 2022, according to GPA.

Additionally, GPA in December had 45,709 rail lifts, up 20% from 2022. Rail volumes represent approximately 20% of Savannah’s volumes.

GPA reported achieving a record for autos and machinery: The Port of Brunswick handled 775,565 units in CY2023, an increase of 15.6% over CY2022.

According to GPA, its investments of $262 million and acreage to expand will make the Port of Brunswick’s Colonel’s Island Terminal the “premier” Ro/Ro (roll-on/roll-off) facility in the U.S., helping auto manufacturers meet their growing import and export needs and giving them flexibility in storage and movement of vehicles during seasonal cycles. This expansion includes near-dock warehousing serving auto and machinery processing at Colonel’s Island Terminal with three new warehouses built and more new processing centers finishing later this year; 122 acres of new Ro/Ro cargo storage space; a fourth Ro/Ro berth in the engineering phase; and a new rail yard planned. 

“At its current rate of growth, the Port of Brunswick is poised to become the nation’s busiest gateway for Ro/Ro cargo,” Griff Lynch said. “We will be ready to serve this growth with our capital improvement projects under way and available land to expand to demand.”

Following are among GPA’s capacity-building projects:

  • Mason Mega Rail: GPA has invested more than $374 million to create what it calls “the largest on-dock rail facility in the Western Hemisphere,” with a comprehensive network of inland terminals, including GPA-operated sites such as the Appalachian Regional Port in Murray County, Ga., and numerous future sites in the pipeline. According to GPA, Mason Mega Rail’s scale and reach is “foundational” to the port’s national gateway growth plans, using a “1,2,3” cargo strategy: one day off the vessel in Savannah, two days transportation, and third-day availability to a network of inland destinations from Atlanta, Ga., and Dallas, Tex., to Memphis, Tenn., and Chicago, Ill. The Port said that 75% of the U.S. population is reachable within three to four days.
(GPA Photograph)
  • Blue Ridge Connector: The GPA Board on Dec. 5 approved spending $127 million to build the Blue Ridge Connector, an inland rail terminal in Gainesville, Ga., linking Northeast Georgia with the Port of Savannah’s 37 weekly vessel calls. NS will connect the facility to the Mason Mega Rail terminal in Savannah. Slated to open in 2026, the Blue Ridge Connector will serve a region whose industries cover the production of heavy equipment, food and forest products.
  • Carolina Connector: North Carolina importers and exporters have a direct rail connection between Savannah and Rocky Mount, N.C., via the CSX Carolina Connector (CCX) intermodal terminal. Since last fall, seven-day-a-week rail departures from GPA’s Mason Mega Rail Terminal have been offered with three-day transit time.
  • Container Berth 1: The improved Berth 1 at Garden City Terminal re-opened in July 2023, increasing berth capacity by 25% or 1.5 million TEUs, according to GPA. Reconfiguring the dock alignment provided another big ship berth, accommodating more 16,000 TEU vessels, it noted.
  • New Ship-to-Shore Cranes: The Port of Savannah received a total of eight ship-to-shore cranes–four in February 2023 and four in August 2023—bringing the total crane fleet to 34. The new cranes are able to serve 22,000 TEU vessels.
  • Garden City Terminal West: GPA said 100 acres and 1 million TEUs of annual capacity will be added adjacent to Garden City Terminal proper. Slated for completion in two phases in 2024, the yard will offer a new, long-term storage option for port customers.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Facility Upgrade: A $44 million investment was announced last month to build a new office and refrigeration facility to support CBP, according to GPA. Savannah provides the only on-port CBP facility in the U.S., “lowering costs for customers and supply chain time by eliminating the need to transport containers to an off-site inspection facility,” it said.
  • Savannah Transload Facility: Operated by NFI, this facility opened Dec. 5, 2023.
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