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Volume decline gives Port of Savannah operators a breather

Georgia Ports Authority says ‘slight reduction in demand will mean faster vessel service’

The Georgia Ports Authority says a dip in demand has allowed the Port of Savannah to begin clearing a vessel backlog. (Photo: GPA)

The Georgia Ports Authority said the year-over-year 6.2% volume drop in November is not a bad thing. 

“Container trade at U.S. ports is returning to a more sustainable growth pattern, which is a positive development for the logistics industry,” GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch said in a Tuesday news release. “Along with the addition of more than 1 million TEUs of annual capacity, a slight reduction in demand will mean faster vessel service as we work to bring a new big ship berth online at Garden City Terminal in July.”

The Port of Savannah in November handled 464,883 twenty-foot equivalent units, 30,866 TEUs less than the same month last year. Still, the port’s rate of growth has jumped from pre-pandemic levels of 4% to 5% annually to 28% since November 2019, according to the GPA. 

The GPA said the impact of inflation and a shift in consumer spending contributed to a reduction in manufacturing and subsequent container demand. Weather also played a role in November’s volume decrease, as the Savannah River channel was closed to the largest vessels when the East Coast was hit by Tropical Storm Nicole

The Port of Savannah moved 552,800 TEUs in October. That was up 9.6%, or 48,460 TEUs, from October 2021. It was the port’s second-busiest month on record, behind only August of this year, when it handled 575,513 TEUs

Lynch said Tuesday the lull has allowed the Port of Savannah to reduce its current vessel queue to 17 container ships, down 43% from Nov. 1, when there were 30 vessels at anchor. The GPA expects to entirely clear the backlog by early January. 

The GPA also expects early 2023 volumes to be healthy — but not overwhelming.

“While we are planning for a moderation in the container trade, we expect volumes to remain strong, though shy of the historic highs of the past year,” GPA Chairman Joel Wooten said. “Announcements from automakers and other manufacturers coming to Georgia, as well as an array of their suppliers, will mean healthy increases in trade over the long term.”

Nissan North America announced in September that it had chosen the Port of Brunswick as a new point of entry to serve U.S. markets. 

October bountiful for ports on East, Gulf coasts

Nissan steering imports through Port of Brunswick

Port of Savannah clearing record volumes despite vessel backlog

Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

One Comment

  1. Charlie Frohman

    After reading this today, I emailed the Port of Savannah regarding the current backlog and delays, here is the answer I got at 1034AM this morning, 12/14/22. Perhaps the breather is coming in a month or so, it doesn’t seem to exist currently:

    Good morning,
    There are currently 20 vessels at anchor. Average time at anchor is currently 13 days.
    Customer Service Representative | Georgia Ports Authority
    [email protected]

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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.