American ShipperInfrastructureIntermodalShipping

Talks underway to link Savannah, St. Louis via rail

The port and the St. Louis Regional Freightway are seeking to form a relationship to explore opportunities that support growth in both cities.

   The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) and the St. Louis Regional Freightway have entered into talks that will result in a formal relationship to explore opportunities that support growth in Savannah and St. Louis, John Trent, GPA’s senior director of strategic operations and safety, told American Shipper Thursday via email.
   A signing date has yet to be set for a memorandum of understanding, which would “recognize mutual trade interests, with the benefits to St. Louis customers being lower transportation costs and more consistent, reliable service through the Port of Savannah compared to other container gateways,” Trent explained.
    The Port of Savannah’s $220 million Mason Mega Rail Terminal is expected to increase Norfolk Southern’s annual rail lift capacity from 350,000 containers to 500,000 by the end of 2019. CSX’s annual rail lift capacity will grow from 225,000 to 300,000 in 2020 and to 500,000 by the end of 2021, Trent said.
   The first phase of the Mason Mega Rail project, which is part of the port’s $3 billion investment plan, is scheduled to come online by October and the second phase is set to become operational by the end of 2020, the port said in early April.
   “At present, the rail bridges over a canal necessary to link our two current on-terminal rail yards are complete, and additional track is being laid at our Mason Intermodal Container Terminal Facility,” Trent said Thursday.
   In a statement released Tuesday, the St. Louis Regional Freightway — a development enterprise formed to create a regional freight district and authority for freight operations and opportunities within eight counties in Illinois and Missouri that comprise the St. Louis metropolitan area — said the on-terminal unit train would enable CSX and Norfolk Southern to deliver faster and more frequent rail service to Midwest markets.
   Trent said last week at the St. Louis Regional Freightway Industry Forum that shipping via rail through the Port of Savannah would lower the cost for shippers by $300 to $400 per container compared to transport from the West Coast to St. Louis, and the total transit time would be comparable, according to the statement.
   “We offer a premium, lower cost option and, in addition, we provide that consistency,” Trent said at the forum, according to the statement. “We believe we have a viable solution to not only support existing business in the St. Louis region, but also to grow business in the St. Louis region.”
   St. Louis is 350 miles closer to the Port of Savannah than any other major East Coast gateway, according to the statement.
   “I cannot overstate the potential of this new partnership and the opportunities it can create to develop stronger links between our region’s world-class freight capabilities and national and global supply chains,” said Mary Lamie, executive director of the St. Louis Regional Freightway, in the statement.
   The Port of Savannah had its busiest April in history with 364,481 TEUs, which was a 1.9% year-on-year increase. Its fiscal-year-to-date totals grew to 3.7 million TEUs, an 8.7% jump over the same period in fiscal year 2018, GPA announced May 20.
   GPA handled 76,000 TEUs of intermodal cargo during the month, which was an 11% increase.

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