The Georgia Ports Authority posted 12.3 percent growth in year-over-year container volumes for December – an increase made even more impressive by the fact that December 2015 reflected inflated cargo numbers as the threat of a strike on the West Coast sent more containers Georgia’s way.
December’s 292,172 twenty-foot equivalent container units – know as TEUs – marked a new record for the ports, executive director Griff Lynch told the GPA board Monday at its first meeting of 2017.
The growth in containers was replicated in December’s roll-on/roll-off cargo, with 63,967 autos, trucks and heavy equipment units handled at Colonel’s Island in Brunswick and Ocean Terminal in Savannah – also a 12.3 percent increase year-over-year.
Break-bulk tonnage was up 15.8 percent, while liquid and dry bulk tonnage was down 22.6 percent last month, as growth in biodiesel and asphalt imports were unable to offset lower imports of vegetable oil, chemicals and caustic soda and exports of turpentine and petroleum products.
Revenue for the month was $29.3 million, 2.5 percent above the amount budgeted for December and 10.2 percent above December 2015. Operating expenses came in at $17 million.
Overall, the port marked its busiest year ever in loaded container traffic in 2016, moving 2.94 million TEUs, an increase of 71,083 over 2015. Counting loaded and empty containers, the Port of Savannah moved 3.64 million TEUs in calendar year 2016.
SHEP, inland port progressing
Reporting on the status of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, Lynch said the first contract for the the sediment basin area work was awarded in September and is currently 16 percent complete. Dredging of the outer harbor entrance channel is about 40 percent complete, and work on the dissolved oxygen sites up and down the river is 15 percent finished and on schedule to be done by the end of this year.
The board also heard an update on GPA’s newest inland terminal, the Appalachian Regional Port in Northwest Georgia. Port officials estimate the CSX rail route will reduce Atlanta truck traffic by 50,000 moves annually and expand GPA’s target market in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Each container moved by rail from the inland terminal will offset 355 truck miles on Georgia highways.
“GPA’s track record of operational excellence over the past decade more than prepares it to achieve great things at the Appalachian Regional Port,” said board chairman Jimmy Allgood.
The new inland terminal will make goods manufactured within its service region – such as flooring, automobiles and tires – more competitive in the global market, while reducing carbon emissions, Allgood said, adding that companies are already planning to locate or expand in that part of the state to take advantage of the terminal’s future benefits.
“This is the next step in our transition, moving additional cargo to rail, allowing more capacity on our interstates, and extending GPA’s competitive benefits farther into the American heartland,” he said.
Construction of the new inland terminal is expected to take just under two years, with operations starting in the third quarter of 2018.
The board OK’d the purchase of updated software to run gate, vessel and rail operations at a cost of $8 million, as the system currently in use has been retired by the manufacturer.
In preparation for the increase in both number and size of container vessels calling on Garden City Terminal as the SHEP progresses, the authority established an overall project budget of $11.5 million for the first phase of container berth upgrades.
As he opened the meeting, Allgood asked for a moment of silence for GPA assistant attorney general Thomas J. Mahoney Jr., who died Friday.
“For nearly three decades, Tom Mahoney helped steer GPA’s growth and success with his wise counsel, knowledge of maritime issues and love of our ports,” Allgood said. “He will be missed.”