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Ports of Brunswick, Savannah post August gains

Both containers and wheeled cargo volumes grew at Georgia Ports Authority’s deepwater terminals last month, making it the ports’ busiest August on record and its second-busiest month ever for container volumes.

“The authority started its fiscal year off on strong footing, with year-over-year growth in both July and August,” GPA executive director Griff Lynch told his board Monday.

“The strength was spread among all business segments. Volume exceeded forecast levels and is in line with expectations for the balance of fiscal 2018.”

Colonel’s Island Terminal in Brunswick moved 53,675 units of roll-on/roll off cargo, an increase of 15.3 percent over the previous August. Savannah handled 348,297 twenty-foot equivalent container units — or TEUs — an increase of 5.3 percent compared to the same month a year ago.

Tonnage for August was up nearly 10 percent, total breakbulk tonnage climbed 7 percent. For July and August, Ocean Terminal increased tonnage by 13 percent, driven by greater imports of lumber, machinery, iron and steel; and exports of machinery and woodpulp.

Lynch attributed the recent growth, in part, to a strengthening economy and retail customers’ preparations for the holiday season, as well as larger cargo exchanges from the post-Panamax vessels now transiting the expanded Panama Canal.

“The growth we’re experiencing in Savannah and Brunswick demonstrates that the logistics market has chosen Georgia’s deepwater ports as must-call gateways for trade,” Lynch said. “Better road and rail connections, unmatched terminal efficiency, and the GPA’s commitment to infrastructure investment means rock-solid reliability through our ports.”

To accommodate growing customer demand in Brunswick, GPA is adding auto processing space. In July 2016, Colonel’s Island had 60,000 vehicle spaces. By October, the GPA will have added 30,000 new spaces, with plans to add another 60,000. The full expansion will bring Brunswick’s total annual throughput capacity to 1.4 million vehicles.

“Colonel’s Island, already the largest autoport in the Southeast, has more room to grow than any other roll-on/roll-off facility in the nation,” GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood said Monday. “The authority’s plan to expand the physical infrastructure will double our capacity for auto processing.”

Likewise, the Port Authority will increase Savannah’s ship-to-shore container crane fleet to 36 within two years and double on-terminal rail lift capacity to 1 million containers per year by 2021.

Revenues for August set a GPA monthly record at $34.5 million, nearly 4 percent above the amount budgeted and 12 percent higher than last August’s revenues. Lynch attributed the better-than expected revenue to high container volumes as well as continued strong volumes and pricing in handling, storage, inspections, rail lifts and refrigerated cargo.

The Port of Brunswick posted revenues favorable to budget across all three terminals.

Irma’s impact

Garden City and Ocean terminals escaped Hurricane Irma relatively unscathed, Lynch said.

“We recorded winds in the range of 60-65 miles per hour, so not as much as Matthew. But we did have a wind event — which we believe was a tornado — just downriver from our facility. It destroyed the Savannah Giant, a large, barge-based breakbulk crane, literally bending its boom in half,” he said.

Ocean Terminal did flood at high tide, he said, but workers there had moved all the autos and other wheeled vehicles into warehouses on higher ground, avoiding what could have been a disaster.

“That crew did a fantastic job, he said.

The news wasn’t as good in Brunswick, where the ports recorded much heavier winds with gusts up to 125 miles per hour. Damage to equipment was estimated at $700,000 to $1 million and one zone in the auto facility on Colonel’s Island took on water.

Vessel operations in Brunswick resumed Thursday morning and Colonel’s Island was quickly at capacity, with three large car carriers in port.

More Info

Breakout Box: 

GPA AUGUST RECORDS

• Container Volumes of 348,297, up 5.3 percent

• Import loads of 91,729, an all-time high

• Truck gate moves of 241,311, an all-time high

• Revenues of $34.5 million, an all-time high

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