The Port of Savannah posted record container volumes in April, a potential sign that shippers who were once looking for a temporary haven from U.S. West Coast port disruption may have found a more permanent home on the East Coast.
Savannah container volumes jumped 25.8 percent year-over-year in April. The Georgia seaport, the fourth-busiest container port in the nation, handled a total of 335,337 twenty-foot equivalents in April alone.
April volumes would still reflect the after-effects of diversions away from the West Coast labor crisis, but the
longer that Savannah's growth outpaces that of West Coast the more it will indicate that at least some shipments have been permanently rerouted to the largest Southeast gateway.
Savannah is just one of many East Coast ports, including Virginia and New York-New Jersey, that have attributed at least some of their recent traffic to the lingering effects of West Coast labor disputes. Since mid-2014, shippers frustrated with protracted negotiations between between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on the West Coast have diverted cargo to gateways further east including New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Georgia.
East Coast ports grew their share of the U.S. import market to 44 percent between January and April this year, up roughly 5 percent since the end of last year, according to PIERS, a sister product of JOC.com within IHS Maritime & Trade. Meanwhile, West Coast ports' share of U.S. container imports shrank from 54 percent to 49 percent in the first quarter.
In those four months, Savannah alone saw its import volumes grow 39 percent, more than any other port. It's a feat that officials in Georgia -- and even at rival East Coast ports -- have attributed to Savannah's strategic investments and congestion-free terminals.
Without crediting April’s growth to any one factor, Georgia Ports Director Curtis Foltz said April was a testament to Savannah's capabilities and proof the Georgia port is prepared to take on an even larger share of the market.
“Across the logistics industry, focus has centered on GPA's ability to handle large volume increases with no congestion,” Port Director Curtis Foltz said in a statement. “Georgia has built world-class port facilities, and our customers appreciate service reliability for current and future volumes.”
In order to keep up those “world-class” facilities, the port authority approved $141.8 million in capital improvements, including $33.4 million in crane upgrades, increased rail capacity and new paving and another $83.4 million for property development and the purchase of new equipment.
“Our long-time policy has been to maintain capacity at least 20 percent above demand through timely infrastructure investments,” GPA Board Vice Chairman Jimmy Allgood said in statement. “By making these commitments now, GPA will be prepared to handle expanding cargo volumes both now and in the future.”
Source: The Journal of Commerce