Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, and other Peach State officials could not be more enthused about the Port of Savannah’s 10-year, $2.5 billion expansion, to grow annual throughput capacity of the Western Hemisphere’s largest single container terminal to 8 million 20-foot container units from its present 5.5 million TEUs.
In his third year as the GPA’s top executive, Lynch discussed the plans today [Sept. 20] before a crowd of more than 1,400 in the annual state of the port address, hosted by the Georgia Ports Authority and the Propeller Club of the United States-Port of Savannah at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center.
The plans include increasing the ship-to-shore crane contingent at GPA’s Garden City Terminal to 42 from 30 by 2028, as well as present dramatic expansion of intermodal rail capabilities at the Port of Savannah.
“We’re preparing to redefine the Port of Savannah as not simply the load center for the Southeastern U.S.,” Lynch said, “but as the port of choice for major inland markets east of the Mississippi River.”
Earlier in the week, the GPA board approved $92 million for the Mason Mega Rail Terminal, which is designed, by 2020, to double the Port of Savannah’s annual rail capacity to 1 million containers, making it the busiest rail facility on a North American port terminal. Also, a new inland port opened in August in Northwest Georgia, with development of additional rail-served inland facilities being pursued.
Lynch pointed out that, in the 2018 fiscal year, ended June 30, the GPA handled a record 4.2 million TEUs, up 8.4 percent over the preceding 12-month period, while intermodal rail lifts surged to 435,000, up 16.1 percent.
Amidst this growth, the Port of Savannah cut truck turn times by a minute last year, with plans for further efficiency enhancements.
“Our No. 1 goal is to give every truck driver a great experience,” Lynch said.
Lynch thanked Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and other elected officials for their roles in advancing the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, which is now 50 percent complete and on target for completion in late 2021.
Furthermore, Lynch said port officials and Georgia Department of Transportation counterparts will begin the process to replace the air-draft-restricted Talmadge Bridge, so as to allow the Port of Savannah to receive super-duper-sized containerships with capacities of as many as 22,000 TEUs that are anticipated to be deployed within 10 to 15 years.
“We have always recognized the impediments to growth and faced them head-on,” he said.
The forum also provided an opportunity for Lynch to introduce a GPA workforce development initiative, the Youth Learning Equipment and Safety Program, or YES, to hire and train high school graduates for port industry careers.
“Maintaining a well-qualified workforce is critical to remaining competitive,” Lynch said.
In opening the program, GPA Chairman Jimmy Allgood said advancement of the Port of Savannah “frankly is the envy of our country.”
“I think you all will agree Georgia’s ports are providing greater opportunities than ever before,” Allgood said.
Speaking before Lynch, Deal focused on the ability of port facilities to help bring industrial development to the Peach State, to the tune of $1 billion in investments in the past year, noting that completion of the Savannah Harbor project should provide a further boost.
“Industries are drawn to Georgia by its growing population, economic energy and its superior connectivity to important centers of production and commerce,” Deal said. “Companies that ship through Georgia’s ports benefit from superior road and rail infrastructure and more global container services than any other port on the U.S. East Coast.
“When the port prospers,” the governor said, “the entire state of Georgia prospers.”
Comprehensive coverage, including reception photos, is slated to appear in the Oct. 8 edition of the American Journal of Transportation.