Posted on December 10, 2023
The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) Board has approved a $127 million budget to build the Blue Ridge Connector, an inland rail terminal in Gainesville linking Northeast Georgia with the Port of Savannah’s 35 global container ship services.
According to GPA, the future facility will open in 2026 and serve a region important for the production of heavy equipment, food and forest products.
Georgia Governor, Brian Kemp, said: “Through improved connectivity, developments like the Blue Ridge Connector maximise the impact of Georgia’s extensive logistics network. Inland terminals have a proven track record of powering economic development for rural Georgians by extending port services to the doorstep of manufacturing and supply chain operations.”
The Blue Ridge Connector is being funded by a combination of GPA internal funds and a $46.8 million grant from the Federal Maritime Administration. The facility will be linked to GPA’s Mason Mega Rail terminal in Savannah by Norfolk Southern Railroad.
GPA President and CEO Griff Lynch, said: “This important investment will help our customers streamline their supply chains while reducing congestion on Georgia highways. As we have seen at the Appalachian Regional Port in Murray County, improved rail service to the region will increase transportation efficiency and act as a magnet for jobs and economic development.
“Every container moved by rail will avoid a 600-mile roundtrip by truck between Savannah and the Gainesville, area. That’s a massive benefit to cargo owners seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.” Hybrid electric rubber tire gantry cranes will be used.”
Separately, the board approved $44.5 million for the construction of a 300,000-square-foot building on Garden City Terminal with offices and refrigerators to serve US Customs and Border Protection.
GPA Chairman, Kent Fountain, stated: “Our long-term partnership with CBP is important to the safe and secure operational flow of cargo through our gateway container terminal. This investment represents the next level of making future supply chains runs smoother in Savannah.”
GPA reopened Berth 1 at Garden City Terminal to vessel traffic last month. The pier can currently service vessels of 16,000+ TEU after a two-year rehabilitation project. With all berths fully operational, vessel service has resumed to pre-event levels, and ship waits have been eliminated.
GPA is reportedly implementing a $262 million expansion initiative at the Port of Brunswick. On the north side of Colonel’s Island Terminal, 350,000 square feet of near-dock storage serving car and machinery processing has been completed.
On the island’s south side, three new structures totalling 290,000 square feet and 122 acres of Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) cargo storage capacity are being built.
GPA maintains a two-pillar strategy of development and operations, with the Port of Savannah focused on container trade and Brunswick specialising in RoRo cargo.
While volume numbers have yet to be finalised for November, GPA anticipates trade of approximately 430,000 TEU container units, for an 18.5 per cent increase over the same month in 2019, the most recent year not affected by the pandemic.