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Georgia Ports’ fiscal year volumes slide nearly 7%

June volumes down almost 23% year over year

Georgia Ports Authority released its 2023 fiscal year volume totals on Tuesday. (Photo: Georgia Ports Authority)

The Georgia Ports Authority handled 5.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units in its 2023 fiscal year ending June 30, down 6.7% from fiscal year 2022 but higher than the 5.3 million TEUs moved in 2021 and the 4.5 million TEUs moved in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of that total, GPA handled 1.13 million TEUs in loaded imports at the Port of Savannah in 2023, nearly 61% lower than 2022. Loaded export volume at Savannah for 2023 was 684,806 TEUs, down 49% year over year.

But GPA said its annual growth rate for overall volumes since 2019 is 4.7% per year, according to a Tuesday news release.

Although volumes may have declined year over year (y/y) at the Port of Savannah, they grew in other places. The port authority said 2023 was a banner year for roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro) volumes, with GPA handling more than 723,500 units in 2023, which is not only a record but also 18% higher than fiscal year 2022.

Ro/ro imports were up by 24% and exports rose 7% in 2023, GPA said. Nissan also became a customer at Colonel’s Island Terminal at the Port of Brunswick, which contributed to the increase in ro/ro volumes.

“The Port of Brunswick achieved strong growth in the import and export of heavy machinery, while auto manufacturers’ improved microchip supply also meant an increase in vehicles,” GPA President and CEO Griff Lynch said in the news release. 

Port officials also touted the Port of Brunswick’s access to short-sea trade out of Mexico, as well as its current acreage and ability to grow. 

“As manufacturers continue to invest and ramp up production in that region, Colonel’s Island is in a strong position to capitalize on this trade lane,” said GPA Chief Commercial Officer Cliff Pyron. “We have already begun to see the benefits of Brunswick’s first port-of-call status from Mexico.”

Besides the Port of Brunswick, inland terminal Appalachian Regional Port handled its highest volumes ever, according to GPA. The terminal handled 33,700 rail lifts, which is more than 18% higher y/y.

Despite the drop in volumes between fiscal years 2022 and 2023, GPA said the Port of Savannah reached an 11.2% market share in container trade through April, according to recent PIERS data. The data, which consists of import and export data at the bill of lading level, accounts for container trade occurring at U.S. ports on the East, West and Gulf coasts. 

Market share may have also increased as shippers sought to hedge their exposure to the West Coast ports, where port workers at facilities including Los Angeles and Long Beach had been negotiating over a labor contract.

“This continues a trend stemming from the U.S. Southeast’s fast-growing population, increased domestic production and a shift in overseas manufacturing toward India and Southeast Asia, favoring delivery via Savannah,” Lynch said. “I’d like to commend GPA employees, and our partners at Gateway Terminals and the International Longshoremen’s Association, for their outstanding work during our second-busiest year ever.”

Meanwhile, June volumes fell 22.7% y/y to 381,825 TEUs. June volumes were also 14.5% lower than June 2021. But compared with the pre-pandemic month of June 2019, volumes were up 5.5%.

June ro/ro volumes were 58,400, up 43.6% compared with a year ago amid new customers and improved availability of microchips used in the manufacturing of automobiles.

Both overall volumes and ro/ro volumes are corrections from the pandemic’s impact on the market, according to GPA, which said other factors include the shift in consumer spending from goods to service and slower purchases by retailers because of backlogged inventory.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.