Georgia Ports first virtual address reaches thousands online


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Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch and GPA Board Chairman Will McKnight hosted an online audience during the 2020 virtual State of the Port.

Annual presentation provided updates on operations, infrastructure

Last month, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) live streamed its annual State of the Port presentation to more than 5,000 virtual audience members. GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch and Board Chairman Will McKnight hosted viewers during a typical day at the nation’s third-busiest gateway for containerized goods.

During the first-ever virtual event, Lynch and McKnight provided infrastructure updates and the status of Georgia’s deepwater ports, including the impact of COVID-19. McKnight said by taking the State of the Port address online, GPA is able to share Savannah’s competitive advantages with a broader audience.

“We have been able to reach out to thousands more people than we ever have before,” McKnight said. “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to virtually bring our stakeholders and customers onto a working port.”

The Port of Savannah handled 4.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units until Fiscal Year 2020, down slightly from 4.5 million TEUs in FY19. But, the port set a monthly record in September, handling 412,148 TEUs, an increase of 11.4 percent over the previous September.

“We’re actually breaking records in a pandemic,” Lynch said. “I want to thank our GPA employees, the International Longshoremen’s Association and our many partners across the logistics industry for their dedication to service.”

Several improvements are currently under way to ensure cargo fluidity and stay ahead of future demand. At the Port of Savannah, the straightening of Berth 1 at the Garden City Terminal will allow GPA to expand its capacity to allow docking for four 15,000-TEU container ships and three additional vessels simultaneously. The project will take approximately two years.

While the Berth 1 work is in progress, smaller container ships will use the port’s Ocean Terminal. Retrofitting Ocean Terminal to accommodate the container ships already is underway and should be finished by the end of this year, Lynch said.

Meanwhile, the deepening of Savannah Harbor to accommodate the new generation of giant container ships is more than 75 percent complete and due to be finished around the end of next year. Also, to handle increased demand at Appalachian Regional Port near Chatsworth in Northwest Georgia, GPA is adding 13 container rows in 2020, growing storage by 22 percent or 390 TEU slots. The inland port now features stacking space for nearly 2,200 TEUs of cargo.

Lynch and McKnight also made several economic development announcements during the hourlong broadcast, including the nearly 9 million square feet of industrial construction now under way in Savannah’s private market.

New projects include a 1.2 million-square-foot facility in Bryan County to be built by medical goods provider Medline Industries. Construction is expected to be completed late next year, with FedEx leasing 415,000 square feet to provide e-commerce capabilities. Another 800,000-square-foot distribution center to handle e-commerce will be built in Liberty County, Lynch said.

A new economic impact study from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia was also unveiled. Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 496,700 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $29 billion in income, $122 billion in revenue and $3.4 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy. The Port of Savannah handled 9.3 percent of total U.S. containerized cargo volume and 10.5 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in FY2020.

In a recorded statement, Gov. Brian Kemp said the outlook for Georgia’s ports remains strong.

“Over the past year, our nation has faced unprecedented challenges that have impacted our daily lives and our economy. We’ve had to rethink how we handle the logistics of healthcare, retail, manufacturing – and the global trade that supports these endeavors,” Kemp said. “Through it all, our ports have remained steady, keeping cargo moving, attracting investment, and building market share.”