With the stern of the massive COSCO Development as a backdrop Friday, Gov. Nathan Deal welcomed the largest container ship ever to sail to the East Coast, calling the big ship’s visit the beginning of a new chapter of growth for Georgia’s ports.
“This is another example of how the Port of Savannah is the gateway not just for the U.S. Southeast, but for America’s East Coast,” Deal told the group of port employees, maritime officials, state and local leaders as a record six ship-to-shore cranes worked the ship to complete a total of 5,500 container moves — another record for the port.
“The numbers are impressive; our customers have spoken, and the Port of Savannah is clearly the must-call port,” Deal said.
The 5,500 moves completed in the ship’s 30 hours at berth amounted to a total of 10,000 TEUs — or twenty-foot equivalent units — the standard unit of measurement in the shipping industry. That number also accounted for more than 50 percent of the Development’s entire volume of boxes moved off and on in its maiden voyage to the East Coast, which included the ports of Virginia and Charleston.
But the 1,200-foot, 13,000 TEU Development wasn’t the only ship working on Garden City Terminal over that 30-hour period, according to GPA executive director Griff Lynch.
“Right now, we’re averaging 40 moves per crane per hour on the Development,” Lynch said. “Across the terminal, we have 18 cranes working ships, completing 700 total moves an hour.”
During the 30-hour period when the Development was in port, Georgia Ports workers and members of the International Longshoremen’s Association worked a total of nine vessels, moving more than 12,000 boxes for a total of 21,600 TEUs, Lynch said.
“That is a paradigm shift.”
And the port is ready, said GPA board chairman Jimmy Allgood.
“Generation after generation has committed to building this facility into the world-class port it is today,” Allgood said. “Those decades of dedication have made possible the work you see being achieved here with the speed and efficiency that is the hallmark of this port’s reputation.”
That speed and efficiency will only increase as the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project progresses, Lynch said, adding that dredging of the outer harbor to 49 feet at mean low water is on schedule and approximately 60-percent complete.
When asked if the state would add any more to its already-delivered $266 million portion of the project’s costs now that the final estimate has risen from $706 million to $973 million, the governor expressed confidence that it would happen if necessary.
“I have every confidence that the General Assembly will agree to do that, but until such time as we have exact figures, it would be premature to ask,” he said.
“We need to be sure what the federal government is going to do. We would hope that they will continue on a path that is accelerated in terms of funding, because it’s been fairly level over the last several years. They need to step it up.
“Initially, we were really needing about $100 million a year from the federal government just to keep us on the pace and within the time frame we had estimated. We’re far ahead of the federal government in terms of contributions.”
Deal said the national allocation of $47.5 million is significantly below the need.
“However, they have put money into a general fund for the Corps of Engineers for harbor projects. Hopefully, because we are well into our project, they will give us additional money from that account,” he said.
ABOUT THE SHIP
Owned by Seaspan Container Line and operated by China Ocean Shipping C0., the COSCO Development was built in 2011 at Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea. At 1,201 feet long and 158 feet wide, the Hong Kong-flagged vessel has a capacity of 13,092 TEUs, or 20-foot container equivalents. She is currently deployed in the OCEAN Alliance’s new South Atlantic Express Service, or SAX, which will bring 11,000- to 13,000-TEU ships into the Port of Savannah regularly.
China Ocean Shipping Co. the national flag carrier of the People’s Republic of China, was founded in 1961 and has grown to become one of the largest container operators in the world. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company’s core international shipping business is divided between Chinese imports/exports and cross trade cargos. With Regional offices in New York, Hamburg, Sydney, Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore, Dubai, Johannesburg and Beijing, COSCO’s 20 main line services connect more than 1,000 ports worldwide.