The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) hosted local business leaders to discuss the impact of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). The event brought more than 60 members of the local business, economic development, maritime and logistics industries.
“The Port of Savannah’s maritime, logistics and business communities agree that the Savannah Harbor must be prepared for the demands of global shipping after the Panama Canal Expansion is completed in 2014,” said GPA Executive Director Curtis J. Foltz. “With vessels like the CMA CGM Figaro already calling on the Port of Savannah, it is imperative that the SHEP is approved and remains on schedule.”
Last week, an 8,500-TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) vessel, the CMA CGM Figaro called on the Port of Savannah. In order to more efficiently handle larger vessels, the GPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working to deepen the river from its current 42 foot depth to as much as 48 feet. This project – one of the most important and productive civil works projects in the country – will maintain and create jobs and commerce throughout the region.
“A deepened harbor means jobs for our families,” said President of ILA Local 1414 Willie Seymore. “Not just the promise of new jobs, but maintaining what we have as well. Nearly 300,000 people throughout Georgia rely on this port to deliver economic opportunity everyday.”
The SHEP is widely supported by Georgia’s state leadership, which has appropriated $105 million of construction funds to date. Almost $40 million has been spent on environmental and other work associated with the SHEP, helping to ensure that all of the impacts associated with the project will be avoided, reduced or mitigated.
“The Port of Savannah sustains and creates jobs and commerce throughout the region,” said Roadlink Intermodal Logistics’ Savannah Terminal Operations Manager Sam Pena. “Our truckers rely on the Port of Savannah to efficiently handle cargo destined for locations throughout the Southeast and beyond.”
While the majority of cargo flowing through the Savannah River is delivered to one of GPA’s facilities, other area terminal operators will benefit from a deepened harbor as well. For example, the deepening provides an opportunity for the Colonial Group to expand its business.
“The impacts of a deepened harbor will enable us to accommodate larger vessels, thereby decreasing the per-ton costs of our operations,” said Colonial Group’s Vice President of Operations Bill Baker. “Lowered costs allow us to pass the savings on to our customers, and that could mean a world of difference on a tight budget.”
Even during the recession, the GPA continued its work inside the gates to prepare for future cargo demands. The GPA has been working towards a goal of doubling capacity at its Garden City Terminal to 6.5 million TEUs by 2020. These upgrades create increased productivity and the velocity of on-terminal cargo movement.
“Georgia’s ports are a vital economic engine,” said GPA Board Chairman Alec Poitevint. “The maritime, logistics, economic development and business interests represented here today have sent a strong message – that the deepening of the Savannah Harbor is essential to the health of our state’s economy.”