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Georgia Ports continuing record-setting ways

Most single-day gate moves joins highest container volume

Executive Director Griff Lynch reports the Georgia Ports Authority continues setting records in December. (Photos: GPA)

Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch used PGA Masters Tournament announcer Jim Nantz’s phrase to describe last month — “a November like no other.”

Unlike Tiger Woods’ performance at the Masters, the GPA turned in record-setting results in November.

“In November we enjoyed our fourth consecutive month of growth. November was an all-time record, beating October, which was an all-time record,” Lynch said. “We were up 28% year-over-year. We came in at 464,804 TEUs. It was a really great month.”  

The GPA also had set a record in September with 412,148 twenty-foot equivalent units. That was followed with the 464,095 TEUs in October.

“We started the [fiscal] year down in July. We were off by about 6 or 6.1%, and now year-to-date we’re up almost 8% so that’s the four strong months’ cumulative effect, which is great. December is continuing the trend. It’s amazingly strong right now for this time of year,” he said.

Lynch pointed out that U.S. ports don’t typically set all-time records in November. 

“I think it’s true to say we’ve never had an all-time record in November. Normally you see that in August, September, October, not in November. And I would suspect it would be many years before we beat a November like this,” Lynch said. 

The volume surge has continued into December.  

“You can see the gateway ports really having some significant volume increases,” he said. “Obviously the West Coast is getting crushed with volume right now.”

And so the GPA has set another record — 14,000 gate moves in a single day. 

On Tuesday, “of all days — in December — we handled a record number of gate moves,” Lynch said, calling the milestone “an amazing achievement by the team.”

He said Georgia’s ports have not been plagued with congestion problems or long truck turn times as other U.S. gateways have during the fall import rush.  

“There have been times when it hasn’t been perfect or pretty, but we’ve had really no major impacts with congestion or truck turn times or anything like that,” Lynch said. “They’ve maintained a single move in the 35-minute range and a double move in the 55-, 60-minute range. We’ve been able to keep the trucks moving.”

He said Georgia ports also have not run out of chassis, although it has been “a little tight at times.”

“The team worked together with the South Atlantic Chassis Pool and the chassis leasing companies. And they did a wonderful job of making sure that we had chassis,” Lynch said. “The growth obviously is driven by imports, which eats up the chassis, it doesn’t bring chassis to you. They did a great job of fending off that battle. That was one of the keys. When you talk about 14,000 gate moves, you’ve got to keep the trucks moving and we’re able to do that as a result of the chassis.”

In December 2019, the GPA recorded about 10,000 gate moves a day.   

“For weeks now, we’ve been averaging probably 13,500,” Lynch said. “Last year we may have peaked over 13,000 a couple of times. Now we’re doing it every day. And that’s been the story. Each time we make a new milestone that becomes the norm.” 

He said the GPA has long been preparing for the added work. 

“We’ve been investing over $200 million a year to create new capacity at our facilities — new cranes, new yard equipment, new land that we’re developing,” Lynch said. “We’ve always had a goal to try and maintain 20% more capacity than demand. We may not be perfect at that every year but that’s our goal. By having a goal like that, when you have a significant swell of volume, it helps you absorb it better than most. 

“We’re excited to show, ‘Hey, we were able to absorb this and do it in a way that was seamless to the outside world.’”

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Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.