Port of Savannah's Container Boom Accelerates

Image courtesy GPA

Published Aug 8, 2022 4:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Savannah's container business continues to grow by leaps and bounds, jumping 18 percent year over year in July, and the port is working overtime to accommodate the extra volume.

Last year was the port's best ever for TEU volume, and it has exceeded its record-breaking 2021 performance by a marging of seven percent over the course of the year to date. Import volume has more than doubled since before the pandemic, according to Georgia Ports Authority executive director Griff Lynch.

“The Port of Savannah has clearly become a preferred East Coast gateway for shippers globally, including cargo diverted from the U.S. West Coast,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “Our expedited infrastructure projects, extended gate hours and the outstanding work of our employees and partners are key to our ability to move cargo at a record pace.”

The port's soaring popularity is creating new congestion effects: As of the end of July, Savannah had a backlog of about 40 vessels waiting off the coast, a reprise of the delays seen last year. 

To accommodate the extra traffic, GPA accelerated the construction of a $34 million container yard at Port of Savannah earlier this year. Last week, it extended gate hours to 0400 to 2100, adding two extra hours on to the early-morning shift. This has been popular with truckers, the port says, and the new time slot drew in 3,000 gate transactions over the course of the first week. For context, the Port of Savannah’s gate operations averaged 15,000 truck moves per weekday in July, including both import and export transactions.

GPA is also investing heavily in expanding capacity. It has eight new ship-to-shore cranes on order, and a new berth at Garden City Terminal is on track for completion by July 2023. The improved berth will add 1.4 million TEU of berth capacity, and the nearby Garden City Terminal West project will add another one million TEU of yard capacity in 2023-24.

While GPA is planning for long term growth, Lynch told the Wall Street Journal that the port also expects a slowdown towards the end of 2022, driven by the impact of inflation on consumer spending.