On Nov. 30, the Mason Mega Rail Terminal at the Port of Savannah sees its first train departure, ushering in a new era of inland intermodal connectivity for the nation’s third-busiest containerized cargo gateway. (Photo credit: GPA/Stephen Morton)
On Nov. 30, the Mason Mega Rail Terminal at the Port of Savannah sees its first train departure, ushering in a new era of inland intermodal connectivity for the nation’s third-busiest containerized cargo gateway. (Photo credit: GPA/Stephen Morton)

Already the third-busiest U.S. gateway for containerized cargo, the Georgia Ports Authority’s Port of Savannah is enjoying a mega-boost in its inland intermodal capabilities as Garden City Terminal container volumes soar to record highs.

Now more than three-quarters completed, the GPA’s $220 million, 85-acre Mason Mega Rail Terminal, which began initial operations in late fall 2020, is expediting efficient links between Savannah’s busier-than-ever containership berths and such key markets as Memphis and Chicago via CSX and Norfolk Southern rail services with double-stacked containers.

“When complete, Mason Mega Rail Terminal will not only double our rail lift capacity to 2 million TEUs [20-foot-equivalent container units] per year, it will increase our reach into the Heartland with more frequent, direct service and unmatched reliability,” said Griff Lynch, the GPA’s executive director.

“This expansion,” he added, “will also ensure the free flow of cargo across our terminal and beyond our gates as Savannah takes on more business.”

Indeed, the Mason Mega Rail Terminal is coming online none too soon. Trailing only Los Angeles/Long Beach and New York/New Jersey among the nation’s top container gateways, the Port of Savannah saw record throughput in November, the latest month with reported figures, breaking prior monthly highs established in August and October, even amidst a global pandemic.

The Southeast’s No. 1 container hub reached a volume of 464,804 TEUs in November, up 28 percent from November 2019, setting an all-time high for any month, eclipsing the 464,095 TEUs handled in October, which itself bested the 441,600 TEUs moved last August.

“To have achieved all-time record volumes in three of the last five months is a tribute to the hard work and collaboration between GPA and our partners throughout the supply chain,” Lynch said. “The progress we have already made on the Mason Mega Rail has delivered significant capacity increases and will further ensure Savannah’s role as the third-busiest container gateway in the nation.”

No partners are more important to the successful effort than CSX and Norfolk Southern, the respective Chatham and Mason rail yards of which are now linked at Garden City Terminal by newly installed tracks in the formation of the Mason Mega Rail facility.

The addition of more than 18 miles of new track – taking the total of on-terminal track to 34 miles – boosts storage capacity on the terminal by 35 percent and allows the GPA to build more unit trains of nearly 10,000 feet in length for both of the Class I railroads just 1,500 or fewer yards from…

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