Colonial Terminals, Norfolk Southern see a need for additional capacity

Ocean Terminal Port of Savannah
Port of Savannah’s Ocean Terminal

Colonial Terminals and Norfolk Southern struck a deal over the summer to develop breakbulk infrastructure along the Savannah River, believing they are filling a breakbulk need created when the Georgia Port Authority converts its Ocean Terminal from breakbulk to container only.

Colonial Terminals, a division of Savannah-based Colonial Group Inc., acquired from Norfolk Southern 16.7 acres of land adjacent to its riverfront facility and NS’s rail facility for US$17 million.

In a two-phase project, to be completed by late 2024 and estimated at more than US$100 million, the terminal operator and railroad will construct a berth, refurbish an existing warehouse, and support a new rail-served warehouse or outside storage complex.

“The cost of the development of the berth will make up (more than one-third) of the overall cost with supporting infrastructure (warehouse, rail, roads, product handling systems, rolling stock, and site development) making up the rest,” said Ryan Chandler, Colonial Terminals’ president.

The first phase includes the development of the berth, refurbishment of an existing warehouse, substantial sitework for rail and roads, as well as product handling systems and rolling stock The second phase will involve the construction of a second warehouse on the newly acquired property, Chandler explained.

While berthing facilities exist at the adjacent site, the new facility would be served by an entirely new berth, he explained. The facility’s capacity will be more than 1 million tons per year.

“Leveraging our strategic infrastructure in partnership with Norfolk Southern to expand our reach into the breakbulk space is a logical next step for our high-service culture,” Chandler said.

“The berth is being constructed with a substantial footprint (wide and deep) to allow for the efficient and safe handling of commodities that may require more space to maneuver to or from a vessel on the dock. The facility will have at least 40 feet of draft, which should accommodate any vessel that calls on the market,” he said.

Ryan Chandler
Ryan Chandler

Celebrating its centennial in 2024, Colonial Terminals started with a 21-acre deepwater terminal on the Savannah River. Focusing originally on petroleum imports and exports, the terminal has branched out into a mixture of liquid bulk and dry bulk products and is now considered the largest independent liquid and dry bulk facility in the U.S. Southeast.

Atlanta-based Norfolk Southern, with 19,335 route miles across 22 eastern U.S. states and Washington, D.C., accesses more than 800 industrial sites and more than 175 general warehouses.

Kathleen Smith, NS vice president of real estate and business development, said NS sees its real estate assets as “a strategic opportunity,” and the partnership with Colonial Terminals “furthers that mission, aligning our organizations to fulfill a critical supply chain need in the Southeast.”

The railroad “anticipates that Colonial Terminal’s new state-of-the-art facility will fill a need” for Savannah’s breakbulk market, said a NS spokesperson.

Chandler agreed that the rail capacity…

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