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GPA to put up $3 million for Brunswick dredging

The Georgia Ports Authority board, meeting Monday in Brunswick, voted unanimously to allocate up to $3 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore the Brunswick Harbor to its approved 36-foot depth.

The Corps deepened the harbor to 36 feet in 2007, but since then harbor maintenance has been underfunded, resulting in a depth of approximately 31 feet, according to Jamie McCurry, GPA senior director of administration.

Due to the current federal budget crunch, the Corps has only limited funding for “medium use ports” such as Brunswick, leaving the South Georgia port underfunded by about $3 million annually.

The GPA is allowed to contribute funds to the Corps for harbor maintenance, with approval from the Office of Management and Budget and notification of the House and Senate. The port will not be reimbursed for the expenditure.

Also at Monday’s meeting, GPA executive director Curtis Foltz announced record numbers in August for container units, tonnage and truck and intermodal moves.

“August was a very good month on a number of fronts,” Foltz said. “Total tonnage hit an all-time high of nearly 2.5 million tons, 20-foot container units — or TEUs — hit a record 280,000-plus and container tonnage was also at an all-time high.”

The increase in activity was driven primarily by growth in loaded import containers. In fact, for the first time in three years, import loads outpaced exports by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent, reflecting a positive trend in consumer spending, Foltz said.

GPA moved more than 30,000 TEUs by intermodal rail in August, an increase of 3 percent over the same month last year, while more than 180,500 truck moves through Garden City Terminal also set a new record.

“As we move into the balance of 2013, we anticipate modest growth continuing through the height of peak retail shipping in September and October,” Foltz said. “Most economic predictions indicate year-on-year growth of 2 percent from a retail perspective, which should translate into growth of 3 to 5 percent in container activity.”

However, Foltz sounded a cautionary note on export growth, which is closely tied to economic growth in China.

“All indications are that China’s economy is slowing down, so we’ll keep a close eye on that.”

While bulk cargo didn’t set a record, Georgia Ports still reported significant growth in the sector, with 189,000 tons representing a 37 percent increase over August 2012. Fiscal year-to-date growth in July-August was even more dramatic, reaching nearly 364,000 tons of bulk cargo for a 44.5 percent jump compared to the same period in 2012.

GPA’s Colonel’s Island facility in Brunswick handled more than 53,000 auto units. Although the number was down 3.3 percent over the same month last year, it still represented the eighth-highest volume on record.

Mayor’s Point Terminal in Brunswick nearly doubled its year-over-year exports of wood pulp.

Ports board chairman Robert Jepson credited GPA staff with ensuring a successful start to the fiscal year.

“As we get closer to deepening the river, we have had a number of high-level dignitaries coming to take a look at the facility,” Jepson said. “While our staff has been busy with their visitors, they have never taken their eyes off the ball, making sure this remains the fastest-growing, smoothest operating port in the country.”

 

GPA AUGUST NUMBERS

2.5 million: total tonnage, up 8.5 percent over August 2012

280,873: TEUs*, up 3.8 percent over August 2012

30,331: containers moved by intermodal rail, up 3 percent over August 2012

180,572: total truck moves at Garden City Terminal, a GPA record

188,872: tons of bulk cargo, up 37.8 percent

53,195: auto units at Brunswick, down 3.3 percent

 

* Twenty-foot equivalent unit, or 20-foot container, the stand measurement in containerized shipping. The more common 40-foot container is counted as two TEUs.

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