Port of Savannah plans 45 percent boost in container handling over next decade

Savannah looks to become gateway of choice for containers to reach Midwest markets.

The Port of Savannah plans to boost its container handling ability through a $2.5 billion project aimed at making the Port the main East Coast gateway to U.S. inland markets.

Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) executive director Griff Lynch says his agency will bring total container handling capacity to 8 million twenty foot equivalent (teu) in containers, up from current capacity of 5.5 million teus, over the next decade.

“We’re preparing to redefine the Port of Savannah as not simply the load center for the Southeastern U.S., but as the port of choice for major inland markets east of the Mississippi River,” Lynch said at an event at the Port of Savannah.

The expansion includes the Mason Mega Rail Terminal project at the Port of Savannah. Mega Rail, which just received $92 million in funding from the GPA, will double intermodal capacity to 1 million lifts per year, at the Garden City Terminal, Savannah’s main container handling site.

Mega Rail will include 180,000 feet of rail, 18 working tracks and the capability of building 10,000-foot unit trains on terminal.

The GPA says by the fall of 2019, Norfolk Southern will have the capability of building unit trains on terminal. By the end of 2019, CSX capacity will begin to expand, and by the fall of 2020, CSX will handle unit trains.

“This will open new markets, spanning an arc of cities from Memphis to St. Louis, Chicago to Cincinnati,” GPA said in a statement. The project will cut rail time to the American Midwest by 24 hours, presenting a viable new option for manufacturers, shippers and supply chain professionals.”

Other additional infrastructure includes eight additional ship-to-shore cranes, bringing the total to 40, and adding 64 rubber-tired gantry cranes to the current fleet of 146; gate and container storage expansions, berth improvements and off terminal road additions.

The expansion comes as Savannah continues to see strong growth this year with 2.8 million containers handled year-to-date, a 7.4 percent increase over the same period last year.

The expansion project will also coincide with a dredging project for Savannah harbor and its shipping channel that will bring its depth to 47 feet. The project “will allow larger, more efficient container vessels to use the East Coast’s second busiest container harbor with fewer weight and tidal restrictions,” GPA said.

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Michael Angell, Bulk and Intermodal Editor

Michael Angell covers maritime, intermodal and related topics for FreightWaves. His interest in transportation stretches back several generations. One great-grandfather was a dray horseman along the New York waterfront and another was a railway engineer in Texas. More recently, Michael has written about the shipping industry for TradeWinds, energy markets for Oil Price Information Service, and general business topics for FactSet Mergerstat and Investor's Business Daily. When he is not stuck in the office, he enjoys tours of ports, terminals, and railyards.