The month with the fewest days was another record-setting month for the Georgia Ports Authority.
In February, 2.94 million tons of cargo were moved across all docks, a 9.9 percent increase from February 2016 and second only to January’s 3.01 million tons.
“If you look at the run rate for tonnage and extend it three days out we would have beat January, so good things are happening there,” GPA executive director Griff Lych reported to the Authority Board on Monday.
Container tonnage was a leading factor in the growth, increasing by 14.4 percent (314,832 tons) to more than 2.5 million tons for the month. Measured in twenty-foot equivalent units or TEUs, containerized trade grew by 7.7. percent to 330,539 TEUs.
Lynch also reported that the recently formed Ocean Alliance and THE Alliance will begin operations in April and the GPA is currently slated to receive 35 weekly vessel calls, up from 33 a week, which is the most of any port on the East Coast.
“We do expect a bit of disruption over the next month while certain services are terminated and new services are commencing, so we’ll have to see how March and April play out, but certainly over the long term we feel very good about our position on the container side,” he said.
The GPA did experience a decline of 9.5 percent in break-bulk tonnage last month and liquid and dry bulk was down 11 percent. Lynch said many break-bulk items, such as wood and paper products are now being loaded into containers instead of the hull of the ship.
“… Paper products are a massive export for the southeast and they can choose to go into containers or they can choose to be loaded as rolls into vessels,” Lynch said.
“It’s still the same packaging, it’s still a paper roll, but they don’t load it as break-bulk, so I think it’ll level out.”
Lynch also reported that the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is about 55 percent complete and following a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., Lynch and GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood are both optimistic about the condition of the project moving forward.
Allgood said that Sen. David Perdue, along with Rep. Buddy Carter and Sen. Johnny Isakson have all been instrumental in advocating for SHEP across all party lines.
“(Perdue) is right in the door every week with The White House, whether it be with President Trump or Vice President Pence. We came away thinking he needs to be the guy to look after this and he wants to do that,” Allgood said.
Lynch said the bipartisan support is also evident at the Georgia state capital, where he recently visited.
“I was so pleased that uniformly across the board everybody said the same thing, we support SHEP, we support the deepening of the harbor. It’s too important to the nation not to support it,” Lynch said, adding that for every one dollar spent on the project is a benefit of seven dollars to the nation.
“It’s all numbers. It’s not because they like us, it’s all about the numbers.”
Also at Monday’s meeting
Lynch also announced that the Garden City Terminal will commission a new NeoPanamax ship-to-shore crane, with three more to come online by mid-April. A separate $45.3 million order will bring four more cranes to the terminal in 2018, for a total of 30.
The cranes are necessary to serve the larger vessels calling on Savannah.
“As our business expands, we are investing in the infrastructure that supports growth so that we can continue to fulfill our mission of supporting American exports and bringing new industry to Georgia,” Allgood said.