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Quarterly volumes up at Georgia ports despite September decline

Demand strong for remainder of 2022 but could moderate, port officials say

Cranes at the Port of Savannah. (Photo: Georgia Ports Authority)

Fiscal year first-quarter volumes at Georgia Ports Authority rose 9.6% compared with the first quarter of 2022 despite a 7.6% decline in September volumes.

Georgia’s ports handled more than 1.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units between July and September, GPA said Thursday. GPA’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

But September volumes fell 7.6% to 436,279 TEUs as Hurricane Ian led GPA to suspend vessel service for nearly three days.

“A high number of ad hoc vessel calls, the addition of three new Mediterranean services, and one new service to Asia contributed to the growth,” GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch said in a release. “Additionally, our regular services have been arriving with significantly more cargo destined for Savannah.”

Looking ahead, port officials anticipate volume growth to moderate compared with the growth rate of the past two years, with “signs of correction [seen] in the market,” Lynch said. But officials also said that GPA’s market outlook was “strong.”

“We’re expecting a gradual easing in demand based on several factors, including a shift in the balance of consumer spending away from goods and back to services, and the impact of inflation on the economy,” said GPA Board Chairman Joel Wooten. “After having increased trade at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent over the past two fiscal years, this change will represent a return to a more typical rate of growth for GPA.”

With market demand moderating, vessel backlogs could also fall. The Port of Savannah expects to clear out the vessels waiting at anchor by the end of November. There are currently around 204,600 containers on water headed for Savannah, down from a July high of 262,500.

In the first quarter, loaded and empty exports at the Port of Savannah totaled 776,067 TEUs, with imports at 766,525 TEUs. Loaded containers were about 70% of total container trade, GPA said.

Intermodal rail lifts also rose among Georgia ports in the quarter, up 6.4% to nearly 146,000 at Garden City Terminal, the Appalachian Regional Port and GPA’s pop-up container yards. 

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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.