Georgia’s Global Gateway Staged to Grow in 2015

Lucy Adams

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) supports Georgia business sectors by fostering international trade via imports and exports through the ports of Savannah and Brunswick. “One of the real strengths of the ports in Georgia is that we have an extremely balanced and broad portfolio,” says Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz.

Under the oversight of a board of directors, the Georgia Ports Authority is a quasi-state agency – with assets owned by Georgia but operated as a business. As such, it enjoys the latitude to coordinate resources and serve the entire state, as well as the Southeast region, by working closely with other industries such as transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, natural resources and retail. Foltz says, “As a statewide port authority, we have financial goals, productivity goals and service goals. We’re managed like a private company. This model is the envy of this industry in the U.S.”

Garden City Terminal in Savannah is the largest single-operator terminal in the nation and the fourth busiest port in the U.S. for containerized cargo. GPA owns enough land on Colonel’s Island to double the capacity of the Port of Brunswick, which is the nation’s busiest port for the import of new vehicles and second busiest for total import and export cargo for new vehicles.

In order to unload and turn ships around quickly, GPA is proceeding in 2015 with procuring new container handling equipment and support technology for handling refrigerated containers. In addition, GPA works with state and private partners to strengthen Georgia’s transportation infrastructure, including rail, roads and bridges. Continual improvement of last mile access points to rail and highway is a top priority. The ongoing Jimmy DeLoach Parkway construction connecting the Port of Savannah to I-95 is but one example of this commitment. Efficiency at every point in the movement of cargo – from ship to train or truck, from land transit to final destination, and in reverse – increases profitability for GPA, its clients and the economy that depends on international trade.

The Brunswick and Savannah ports boasted record numbers in 2014. Almost 3.5 million tons of cargo moved through Brunswick’s port, an increase of 11.6 percent over 2013.  Roll-on roll-off cargo (machinery and auto units) increased by 10 percent. For the first time in a fiscal year, Garden City Terminal moved more than 3 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs).

In 2015, Georgia will see the start of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) to deepen the channel from the Atlantic Ocean to Garden City Terminal by 5 feet to a depth of 47 feet at low tide. “We expect that within the first quarter of 2015 there will be a dredge in the water,” says Foltz. The project is necessary to better accommodate megaships calling on the U.S. East Coast, which are expected to increase in number after the 2016 expansion of the Panama Canal.

It is estimated that every dollar invested in SHEP will generate 5.5 dollars in benefits to the nation. According to an impact study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. companies shipping goods through Savannah stand to save 20 to 40 percent on transportation costs. The GPA continuously collaborates with delegates in Washington, the presidential administration and the Corps of Engineers to attract adequate federal funding for the project.

Ultimately Georgia wins, both the Georgia businesses depending on the ports and the general Georgia citizenry. “When we grow, jobs grow,” Foltz says, adding that an economic impact study completed two years ago indicated that GPA activities drove approximately 350,000 jobs. “We expect to have record growth in 2015 and a record number of Georgians supporting that growth.” 

The Georgia Ports Authority maintains a statewide interest and investment. Through Georgia’s ports flows global commerce that impacts the whole of Georgia’s economy. Foltz explains, “Georgia’s ports aren’t about the coast. We’re about cargo to and from the whole state. We’re physically located on the coast, but we’re a gateway for commerce in the Southeast.”