It’s easy to look at the Georgia Ports Authority and think about the things moved across the docks – everything from automobiles made in Tennessee to pecans grown in Georgia. But when thinking about Georgia’s ports, it’s important not to overlook the people.
More than 350,000 jobs in Georgia are supported by Georgia’s deepwater ports. Real people who support their families and give back to their communities work those jobs across all sectors of business, including direct GPA employees along with farmers, manufacturers and retailers.
When considering the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, keep in mind that it’s not a matter of whether shippers will use larger ships to move goods – they already are because the costs per container is lower with larger vessels.
To keep those shippers using Georgia’s Ports, we must be able to conveniently accommodate the industry standard of vessel growth. If cargo is forced to use another port, consumer costs could rise.
The connection to Savannah’s docks is obvious.
Second generation longshoreman Michael Waterman illustrates that. He is a member of ILA1414 and a lasher, tying and untying the containers to the stacks on a vessel.
Michael Waterman is a second generation longshoreman who works at the Port of Savannah.
“You can say it’s in my blood. Growing up, that was all I knew,” Waterman said. “It takes a lot to climb the ships. You have to be very strong and strong minded.”
With a nod to his family’s past on the river, he is also looking to the future.
“My sons want to become longshoremen and deepening the harbor would enhance their chance to become longshoremen,” he said. “Maybe later on down the line they will have a family and the Port of Savannah will help their family, like I’m helping them.”
A little further out in the river you can see Daniel Reed, a tugboat relief captain with Moran Towing.
Daniel Reed is a tug boat relief captain in Savannah.
“I think if they deepen the river and the ships are bigger it’s going to help local business and it definitely helps us,” Reed said. “The more ships they bring in, the busier I am and the happier I am.”
The expansion will also help businesses in the immediate vicinity of the Port of Savannah.
Ruel Joyner owns 24e, a retail store and design firm in downtown Savannah. For Joyner, Georgia’s ports have given him a way to take his vision directly to customers with no middle man.
Ruel Joyner owns 24e Design company, a local firm that recently moved its first container through the Port of Savannah.
“As we speak, the tectonic plates of retail are shifting under our feet. We’re going directly to the manufacturer, to the source,” Joyner said. “Georgia Ports made that available for a small guy like us. Georgia Ports means jobs. This will translate to real dollars, not only for our company being able to grow but to differentiate us from other small businesses that aren’t following that lead. It will give us an edge.”
Just outside of Savannah, William Jackson manages the IKEA distribution center that serves a dozen stores and has marked a 40-50 percent increase in volume since last year. IKEA is the number one retailer for home furnishings in the world.
IKEA’s distribution center’s proximity to the Port of Savannah allows five turns a day on average from its trucking provider. That means a single driver can pick up from the port and deliver five containers of goods a day.
“By bringing those containers in through the bigger ships, we can definitely save on lead time and cost to our customers,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day our customers going through the checkout line receive the benefit of IKEA Savannah being here, and our dream of creating a better everyday life for the many people is a reality now due to our partnership with Georgia Ports.”
The Port of Savannah is also a gateway to and from metro Atlanta. IKEA’s distribution center in Savannah serves the Atlanta store. Diedre Cunningham is the marketing and public relations manager of IKEA Atlanta.
“Partnerships with the Georgia Ports Authority are beneficial to IKEA because we can continue to provide solutions that make a difference not only for our customers, but our coworkers as well,” Cunningham said.
Across the state, no one feels the effect of harbor expansion more personally than Georgia farmers who utilize the Port of Savannah to export their products. Gary Bell is a Claxton cotton farmer.
“If they don’t deepen the harbor, we’re going to lose our markets to other ports and it will greatly increase our cost of exporting,” Bell said. “It will impact our family greatly. We will receive a lower price for our product, and we will be charged more for shipping.”
George Ridgeway, a crane operator at the Port of Savannah for more than 10 years sums it up succinctly.
“It’s all about jobs. The deepening, the impact it has on our community isn’t just about the port jobs. It’s about the region. Hundreds of thousands of people make their living off of what this port provides.
If we’re going to keep up with business and provide stability and jobs in this whole area, we need the deepening,” Ridgeway said. “The impact for me, simply put, is it provides me job security.”
See more about the people the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will support in the video below.
www.gaports.com – In the 2014 State of the Port video, workers in port-related jobs, retail and farming detail the economic benefits their livelihoods will enjoy from the Savannah Harbor deepening.