Georgia ports log record December traffic despite pandemic

Credit: Georgia Ports Authority/Emily Goldman

Posted on February 2, 2021

Shipments through Savannah rose 1.8% in all of 2020 after early drop

Georgia’s largest port finished 2020 with a strong autumn and a record December, making up for the dramatic drop in trade triggered by the pandemic in the spring, officials said Monday.

The port of Savannah handled 1.8% more shipping last year than the year before, despite dramatic shortfalls in late winter and spring when the pandemic throttled China’s manufacturing and then shuttered U.S. wallets.

“What I think no one anticipated was how much we were underestimating the buying power of the American public,” Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “From September to the end of the year — those three months were the best we’ve ever had.”

Savannah last month moved the equivalent of 447,525 twenty-foot containers, up 24% from December of 2019.

The port, whose channel has in recent years been deepened to handle larger ships, also has seen its share of U.S. shipments grow. It now handles 22% of the sea trade on the East Coast, up 10% during the past two years.

“There has been a diversion from the West Coast and Savannah has outpaced the rest of the East Coast,” Lynch said.

Imports started to surge in mid-summer and autumn as home improvement, gardening, furniture and various consumer items flooded in. While the pandemic stymied travel and entertainment, many people still had money to spend.

“When services went away, people turned their attention to buying goods,” Lynch said.

Officials say that Savannah and the smaller port of Brunswick support nearly 500,000 Georgia jobs. There are currently 1,376 people directly at the ports, virtually the same as a year ago, but officials said the growth in trade means they are hiring 75 more.


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