First container vessel calls at Savannah’s Ocean Terminal

The Seaboard Marine Savanna sails up river past Historic River Street on Wednesday to the Port of Savannah. Stephen B. Morton, GPA Photo

Posted on March 17, 2021

Thanks to an expansion of Ocean Terminal at the Georgia Port, allowing for container traffic, that fresh citrus fruit you crave might be just a bit fresher still.

Seaboard Marine has begun importing chilled produce to Savannah through the expanded Ocean Terminal at the Savannah port, according to GPA officials.

Workers and staff of the Georgia Ports Authority welcomed the first container vessel to call at the recently converted Ocean Terminal on March 3.

The container vessel, the AS Savanna  is owned by Miami, Florida, based, Seaboard Marine.

Georgia Ports Executive Director Griff Lynch said the new port service will be important to the getting chilled produce into the Southeast.

“,,, it greatly improves the speed and efficiency of perishable cargo handling,” Lynch said.

Seaboard Marine’s weekly schedule shows six sailings per week to Savannah using two ships, the AS Samanta and the AS Savanna with stops in the Eastern and Western Caribbean, North Central America and South Central America.

With a carrying capacity of 1,713 twenty-foot equivalent container units, known as TEUs, the AS Savanna handled a total of 550 TEUs of import and export cargo while calling on Ocean Terminal.

Ocean Terminal was previously used for wheeled-vehicles, called, RoRo for roll-on/roll-off cargo. With a partial conversion of the terminal recently completed for container work, the port has increased their capacity by 210,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, known as TEUs

GPA’s Chief Commercial Officer Cliff Pyron said the Georgia ports have the capability to meet the evolving needs of customers.

“Our terminals are expandable, and we are scaling up our capabilities right now through multiple projects,” Pyron said. “Adding more than 200,000 TEUs of new capacity at Ocean Terminal is just one part of an exciting evolution going on at the Port of Savannah.”

GPA board chairman Will McKnight said the port stays ready for unexpected changes.

“From time to time, spikes in demand occur because of new customer needs or other factors impacting the global supply chain,” McKnight said. Through the Authority’s steady investment in capacity, GPA is able to handle unexpected surges in container yard demand, whatever the cause.”

The expanded container service at Ocean Terminal provides direct access to U.S. 17, linking the port with Interstates 95 and 16 for expedited transport to area distribution centers and inland markets, GPA officials said. Container yard operations opened at Ocean Terminal on Feb. 22.

“Our terminals continue to function with operational ease and efficiency,” said GPA Board Chairman Will McKnight. “From time to time, spikes in demand occur because of new customer needs or other factors impacting the global supply chain. Through the Authority’s steady investment in capacity, GPA is able to handle unexpected surges in container yard demand, whatever the cause.”

Cargo headed to the Western hemisphere will now have more options, Seaboard Marine officials noted.

“With Savannah in our service network, we’ve provided cargo owners convenient transportation options to key countries in the Western Hemisphere,” said Seaboard Marine President Edward Gonzalez.

Other port projects that are adding capacity include the Mason Mega Rail project which started construction in 2018.

When complete, Mason Mega Rail will allow for the loading for 10,000-foot trains and double the port’s capacity to one million container lifts per year.

As part of the Mason Mega Rail project a new bridge was built spanning Pipemakers canal. The bridge opened last summer in August.

The overpass will reduce the railroad crossings in Garden City and allow unimpeded operation of eight railroad tracks for the Mason Mega Rail Terminal.

GPA Communication Director Robert Morris said fewer rail crossings are already being seen.

“We are seeing a great reductions in delays at rail crossings as more and more of the Mega Rail comes online,” Morris said.

The Mason Mega Rail terminal combined the Chatham and Mason rail yards, operated by CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads. The new terminal will allow 10,000-foot trains to be loaded at the terminal with containers double-stacked. Those trains will increase the capacity from 500,000 container lifts per year to 1 million.

For the project, 18 new railroad tracks will be built, adding 97,000 feet of new rail.

At 1,345 acres, the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal is the largest single-operator container terminal in North America.

DeAnn Komanecky covers business, growth and development for the Savannah Morning News. She can be reached at dkomanecky@savannahnow.com and on Twitter @deannsk

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