The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), Savannah, Ga., announced plans to double capacity at Garden City Terminal to 11 million 20-foot equivalent container units per year. This $5 billion investment will incur about 12,000 new jobs.

In the fiscal year ending in June, the GPA achieved record volumes in containers, total tonnage and cargo moved by rail. At 4.5 million TEUs, the Port of Savannah grew its containerized trade by 7.3%, or 305,000 TEUs. Total tonnage reached 37.5 million, up 1.5 million tons or 4.2%. The port handled 507,000 intermodal boxes, up 73,000, or 17% compared to the previous year.

"The market has clearly chosen the Port of Savannah as the Southeastern hub for containerized trade," says Griff Lynch, GPA executive director. "To fulfill the growing responsibility placed on our deep-water terminals, we have developed a plan to double our capacity."

"What has set Savannah above the competition is our ability to scale up in advance of market needs, so that we are ready when our customers are ready to grow," says Will McKnight, GPA board chairman. "Our terminal infrastructure plan adheres to our investment philosophy of always keeping infrastructure ahead of current demand. This will ensure the GPA is prepared to handle the next wave of cargo expansion."

"Savannah is an incredibly hot market right now," Lynch says. "Business has been flowing into this area in such volume that with all that construction, our vacancy rate dropped to 1.5%. Savannah has achieved the highest absorption rate in the nation."

Upcoming terminal enhancements include:

  • In 2020, Garden City Terminal will receive six additional ship-to-shore cranes, bringing its fleet to 36, what is said to be more than any other terminal in North America. GPA plans continual upgrades to its crane fleet, which will include 12 new cranes with a lift height of 170 feet by 2027.
  • Within three years, the GPA plans a berth realignment to allow docking for more 14,000 TEU vessels on the downriver end of Garden City Terminal. By 2027, the additional cranes, revamped dock space and a new Hutchinson Island terminal will allow the Port of Savannah to significantly increase big ship capacity.
  • Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is now in the final phase of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

To handle the growing container trade crossing Garden City Terminal, the GPA is expanding its rail infrastructure and offerings.  

"Our expanding offerings with Norfolk Southern and CSX to the Midwest will be a game changer in the growth of cargo at the Port of Savannah," Lynch says. "We're now moving containers from ship to departing rail in only 24 hours—2.5 times faster than our previous schedule—which makes Savannah competitive on time and lower on cost compared to traditional cargo routings."

To accommodate increasing rail demand, GPA is in the midst of a $220 million expansion of its on-terminal rail infrastructure at the Port of Savannah.

"The Mason Mega Rail Terminal will be the largest on-dock rail facility at any port in North America," McKnight says. "It will allow the authority to shift more of its cargo mix from truck to rail, so that we can grow our overall volumes without congestion at our truck gates."

Construction on Phase I of GPA's Mason Mega Rail Terminal will be complete in the spring, with a grand opening slated for March 2020. When Phase II opens in late 2020, the project will double the Port of Savannah's rail lift capacity to 1 million containers per year.