First it was the 13,000-TEU COSCO Development, her massive bulk cutting a huge swath through the Savannah River as she made her way from the offshore sea buoy to Garden City Terminal, delighting scores of ship-watchers from Tybee to River Street who turned out to see largest container ship ever to call on the East Coast.
But her fame was short-lived. On June 1 she was eclipsed by the OOCL France, a few feet longer and wider and capable of carrying even more 20-foot container units.
By the end of this month, the France’s record could fall.
And, while records are great, GPA executive director Griff Lynch will be the first to tell you that just getting into port with a record number of containers on board is only part of the equation.
It’s how you handle that load of containers — how quickly and efficiently you can dispatch that cargo while avoiding congestion and keeping everything else on the terminal clicking along — that can make or break a port.
Fortunately for GPA, that’s where Garden City Terminal shines.
Both the Development and the France were worked around the clock by GPA employees, International Longshoremen’s locals 1475 and 1414, local stevedoring companies and others with barely a hiccup.
It was a scenario the ports have been planning for and anticipating since the Panama Canal Authority announced in 2002 that it would undertake a major expansion of its locks, making way for much larger vessels to call regularly on the East Coast.
Until the new locks opened last summer, the largest vessel the Panama Canal could accommodate was 4,500 TEUs.
Now, less than a year after its inauguration, the canal’s new locks are close to seeing the maximum 14,000 TEU ships.
Eyes on Savannah
As those big ships continue to come through the canal, the eyes of the shipping world are on Savannah, which grabbed attention two years ago when labor issues on the West Coast prompted cargo diversions that resulted in major congestion and delays at most ports across the country — except Savannah’s.
Now Savannah is back in the spotlight as shippers are watching to see how well Savannah can handle the larger ships.
“Garden City Terminal is a natural to handle the bigger vessels,” he said, noting that ships such as the Development and France play into the strengths of Garden City’s single–terminal operation, which includes an unmatched 1,200-acre complex, 26 ship-to-shore cranes, nine container berths and on-terminal service by two Class I rail providers.
“With nearly 10,000 contiguous feet of berth, Garden City is the largest single container terminal in North America,” Lynch said. “It can handle a huge 13,000 TEU ship as well as half-a-dozen other ships simultaneously without congestion.”
And that, he said, continues to bode well for Savannah’s port.
“It’s evident shipping lines are deploying larger vessels and cargo exchanges through the Panama Canal to Georgia’s ports,” he said. “This is a strong indicator that an important market share shift to Georgia is possible through recently restructured shipping services.”
On April 1, shipping lines realigned to form massive alliances. These new rotations signal more 13,000-plus TEU vessels are heading for Georgia’s ports. Since the realignment, 35 weekly container services call Garden City Terminal, more than any other port on the East Coast.
Even with the increased traffic — the port set a record for containers moved in May — the operation ran like a well-oiled machine, Lynch said.
“Our record-breaking performance in May with no congestion or operational issues gave our customers increased confidence in Georgia’s ports,” Lynch said. “This proves the GPA can simultaneously serve larger vessels and greater volumes while providing the excellent logistic solutions our customers have come to expect.”
Senior business reporter Mary Carr Mayle covers the ports for the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow. She can be reached at 912-652-0324 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following are the ships expected to call on Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City and Ocean terminals this week. Schedules are supplied by GPA and are subject to change.
TERMINAL VESSEL ETA
GCT PETROCHEM TRADER Today
GCT CSL VIRGINIA Today
GCT CAFER DEDE Today
GCT YM UNANIMITY Today
GCT DOLPHIN II Today
GCT MAERSK KOTKA Today
GCT MAERSK DENVER Today
GCT SAINT NIKOLAOS Today
GCT VENICE BRIDGE Today
GCT NYK ROMULUS Today
GCT MSC GENEVA Saturday
GCT CMA CGM BIANCA Saturday
GCT NORTHERN MAJESTIC Saturday
GCT MAERSK SHANGHAI Sunday
GCT PHILADELPHIA EXPRESS Sunday
GCT MSC BRUXELLES Sunday
GCT YM ULTIMATE Sunday
GCT MOL MANEUVER Sunday
GCT OOCL EUROPE Sunday
GCT NYK ARTEMIS Sunday
GCT KAETHE P Monday
GCT MAERSK PITTSBURGH Monday
GCT SUEZ CANAL Monday
GCT ZIM TEXAS Tuesday
GCT MSC BARBARA Tuesday
GCT MAERSK SEOUL Tuesday
GCT MSC JAPAN Tuesday
GCT MSC SOFIA CELESTE Tuesday
GCT CMA CGM MELISANDE Tuesday
GCT MAERSK KOKURA Tuesday
GCT YM UTMOST Wednesday
GCT PACON Wednesday
GCT HYUNDAI MERCURY Wednesday
GCT BERLIN BRIDGE Wednesday
GCT VIENNA EXPRESS Wednesday
GCT NYK METEOR Thursday
GCT NYK DENEB Thursday
GCT PALENA Thursday
GCT MSC KLEVEN Thursday
GCT XENA Thursday