By Sean Register.
The Port of Savannah has been growing for many years and is an absolute success story that other Ports take note of. As we have all seen recently there is a number of vessels anchored offshore waiting to get into the Port to unload and reload containers. I will explain in my opinion why this backlog has happened and how hopefully it will come to end within the next year.
The Georgia Ports Authority has always been in the constant mode of planning and building infrastructure to handle future container growth and related operations – i.e. they have always been ahead of the demand curve as it relates to container handling and storage. This Pandemic has caused a worldwide interruption in manufacturing and thus severely upset the supply chain. Manufacturing stopped right after the Pandemic started and thus there was a big void in the supply of goods and then there was a gradual start up and then later with a restart it went to semi-normal speed. Also, at the same time there was an unprecedented purchasing spree from consumers and current inventories were depleted and purchasers had to wait until the supply of goods could be replenished. Many are still waiting for goods purchased many months ago.
The ships are now moving again with goods but the number of containers on the port have backed up because those same containers are waiting to move inland by truck (with a driver shortage) or by train, or waiting on the terminal to be loaded on a ship for export. The volume on the terminal was normally around 50,000+ teus per day prepandemic and now it is at 75,000+ teus per day. With so many containers on the terminal it causes the containers to be handled more than usual with the larger than normal stacks. The RTG (rubber tired gantry) operators have to “dig out” containers more than usual out of the stacks to get to the outgoing containers. All of the above is causing a slow down in port operations and thus the speed in which containers can be offloaded and loaded on to ships. This slow down has caused the back up of ships waiting to berth. There are currently about 20 ships at anchor off Savannah but we are much better than the West Coast with about 60+ ships at anchor off of LA/Long Beach.
There is a team of qualified people at the Port of Savannah – GPA personnel, the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA), the Port Truckers, CBP, Savannah Pilots, Crescent towing and Moran towing, CSX & Norfolk Southern Railroads, and the surrounding Warehouses – Distribution Centers – who are working diligently to get our Port back to normal operations as soon as possible. Many thanks to these people who keep cargo moving not only for the Port of Savannah – but for America.
Sean Register is a longtime local businessman in the shipping business and former chairman of the Development Authority of Bryan County.