I wanted to take a moment to speak directly to you about your concerns regarding port safety and operational updates during and after Hurricane Matthew.
Words cannot describe the pride I have in the GPA Team, our ILA partners and the Savannah River Pilots. As I'm sure you are aware, many were impacted by this storm and everyone has their personal story of how it disrupted lives, but this did not stop our maritime community. Hundreds of employees in Brunswick and Savannah were on our terminals the day after the storm restoring power, working with emergency responders and testing systems to ensure we could serve our customers safely and efficiently.
Thanks to the phenomenal efforts from countless individuals including service providers, port stakeholders, first responders and especially Gov. Nathan Deal and his staff, Georgia's ports were fully operational by Tuesday, Oct. 11 and the Savannah River channel opened Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Hurricane Matthew demonstrated the ability of our team to rise to the occasion and showcased the incredible resiliency of our ports to efficiently handle large volumes in challenging circumstances.
Watch as the Garden City Terminal fills up after the Savannah River channel reopened following Hurricane Matthew on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Eleven vessels transited the channel by mid-afternoon, nine of which docked at Garden City Terminal and two at Ocean Terminal.
Snapshot of the Port of Savannah on Wednesday, Oct. 12:
• 8,601 gate moves
• Single move – 29 minutes
• Multiple moves – 51 minutes
• 22 ship-to-shore cranes working nine vessels
• 733 container moves per hour at Garden City Terminal
At the Port of Brunswick, we are currently adding another 100 acres to the Colonel's Island auto terminal – the nation's second-busiest auto port. Twenty of the new acres are in use by WWL, while International Auto Processing has leased another 49.
This additional acreage is the first step in a 540-acre expansion on the south side of Colonel's Island, which will allow GPA to grow with our existing customers, and attract additional carmakers. It is part of GPA's policy of maintaining infrastructure at least 20 percent ahead of current demand.
At East River Terminal in Brunswick, terminal operator Logistec has announced the completion of two new warehouses totaling 221,000 square-feet for wood pellet storage.
I would also like to congratulate International Auto Processing (IAP) on 30 years in business and moving 5.6 million autos through Georgia's ports.
GPA is working with rail partners Norfolk Southern, CSX Transportation, and Rail Link, as well as internal stakeholders in the preliminary design phase of the Port of Savannah International Multi-modal Connector. This $128 million project will link Garden City Terminal's two rail yards.
The project will improve efficiency and grow terminal rail lift capacity to approximately 1 million containers per year. The additional track will allow the Port of Savannah to build unit trains, 10,000 feet long, completely on terminal, while reducing rail crossings and impact on the local community. Funded in part by a $44M grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, construction is expected to start in the spring of 2017.
The multi-modal connector is part of GPA's Mid-American Arc initiative – which will extend the Port of Savannah's reach to capture new and growing markets across the Southeast and Midwestern U.S. This enhancement of our rail capacity is a game-changer in the market to better serve cities ranging in an arc from Atlanta to Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and the Ohio Valley. Unit train capacity on terminal will build density into the system, and make faster, more frequent rail service to markets along the Mid-American Arc attractive to Class I rail providers CSX and Norfolk Southern.
Multi-Modal Connector Milestones to be completed by fourth quarter of 2020
1. SR 25 Overpass, carrying vehicular traffic over the new rail lines
2. Rail track connection between Chatham and Mason ICTF
3. Mason ICTF expanded to serve both CSX and NS
4. Rail-mounted gantry cranes delivered and commissioned
The Port of Savannah is also making strides in its ship-to-shore and container-handling crane fleet. Over the past year, Savannah has added 30 rubber-tired gantry cranes. The last five RTGs to join Savannah's fleet arrived in mid-August and are now operational. This brings the container-handling RTG fleet to 146 – more than any other terminal in the U.S. The GPA will welcome its next four ship-to-shore cranes to Savannah in early December. This latest batch of cranes should be commissioned in March 2017. The next four ship-to-shore cranes are already on order, and should arrive in November 2017, going into service February 2018. The eight new cranes will bring Savannah's ship-to-shore crane fleet to 30, also the most of any terminal in the U.S. With all 30 cranes in operation, the Port of Savannah will have the capacity to move more than 1,000 containers per hour across the dock.
Private Investment: A call to action
Construction will begin next month on a 1.4 million square-foot Floor & Décor distribution center in the Savannah market.
Located on 90 acres about 10 miles from the Port of Savannah, the build-to-suit distribution facility will open by 2018. The new center will add and retain 115 jobs. A second phase will add another 1.1 million square feet, for a total of 2.5 million square feet. This is a strong vote of confidence in the Port of Savannah, but we need even more private investment.
Savannah is the No. 2 growth market in the nation when it comes to absorption as a percentage of building inventory. Currently, our overall industrial vacancy rate is less than 2 percent, while the vacancy rate for structures over 100,000 square feet is just 1 percent. Now is the time for new construction in Savannah. With the rate of growth we are experiencing on-terminal, it is vital for private investment to keep pace.Finally, thank you for your trust in the Georgia Ports Authority team.
Executive Director, Georgia Ports Authority