Port of Savannah Accelerates Expansion Amid Cargo Increase
The Georgia Ports Authority agreed on Monday to accelerate a $ 150 million expansion at the Port of Savannah in response to increased cargo volumes that have hampered its container yard and kept ships waiting at sea.
The state agency’s board of directors approved a plan to increase Savannah’s capacity for freight containers by 25% by June.
The new storage space for containers waiting to be loaded onto ships, trucks or trains will cover around 150 acres (60 hectares), said Griff Lynch, executive director of the port authority. He said more than a third of this new capacity is expected to be ready by January and that the port will eventually be able to handle 1.6 million additional freight containers per year.
“It was in our long-term plan, but we’re accelerating it,” Lynch said. “None of this was planned for this year or next.”
Like other U.S. seaports, the Port of Savannah has struggled to overcome congestion caused by record volumes of shipping containers piling up as the economy recovers from the pandemic. Savannah has the fourth busiest port in the country for cargo shipped in containers. Giant metal boxes are used to transport a wide range of products from consumer electronics to frozen chickens.
The push sent the Port of Savannah to its busiest month in October, when the number of import and export container units crossing its docks exceeded 500,000 for the first time. The port handled a record 5.3 million container units in fiscal year 2021, which ended on June 30.
Authorities have used inland sites to temporarily store cargo and free up space at the Savannah Container Terminal. The port authority has been authorized by the federal government to use the remaining $ 8 million in grants to set up four of these “pop up” container parks in different parts of the state.
Lynch said efforts to reduce the backlog are paying off. The Port of Savannah had around 67,000 containers at its terminal on Monday, he said, up from around 85,000 in September. And the 13 ships anchored off the coast waiting to enter the port were about half the record number of a few months ago.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Lynch said. “We believe this will continue until at least the first quarter of 2022.”
The $ 150 million expansion of the container yard covers not only the conversion of undeveloped land for container storage, but also equipment. The board agreed on Monday to spend $ 24.4 million on new electric cranes to lift and move containers in the new space.