By Cosby Woodruff –
Gov. Nathan Deal’s commitment to spending an additional $20 million in state money to deepen and expand the Port of Savannah is likely to spur additional visits to the port from the largest container ships in the world.
Deal made his commitment to spending the money last week during a welcoming ceremony for the COSCO Development, the largest container ship ever to call at a port of the U.S. East Coast.
When the work on Savannah’s port is complete, such visits could almost become routine.
“I support whatever’s going to be necessary for us to complete this project in a timely fashion,” Deal said last week during the ship’s visit. “And if that’s what it takes, I think the citizens and the voters and the elected representatives in the General Assembly will be willing to do that extra part.”
John Vaughan, a Deal spokesman, told Insider Advantage this week that it is more than just squeezing huge ships into the port.
“To maximize efficiency, shipping lines choose ports with the maritime and landside infrastructure to accommodate not only the size of the ship, but also the massive exchanges of cargo they deliver,” he said.
“A timely completion of the port deepening will ensure that more Neo-Panamax ships are able to navigate through our port more quickly, thereby moving a greater volume of goods through the state and benefiting all parties involved.
“Once finished, the deeper harbor will help the Port of Savannah keep up with growing demand and maintain its position as the Southeast’s dominant gateway to global trade. We look forward to the federal government following Georgia’s lead by fully funding its portion of this vital project. Georgia has done its part, and through our partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, we are hopeful that this project will be completed on time.”
The Georgia Ports Authority said the expansion will make the port large enough for any ship currently operating that may call on the East Coast. “We anticipate being able to handle the largest vessels planned to call the U.S. East Coast for the foreseeable future which is 14,000-TEUs,” Ports spokesman Robert Morris said. A TEU is a cargo container of 20 feet by 8 feet.
“We are currently investigating the possibility of handling vessels larger than 14,000 based on different vessel designs and their variables. But, as mentioned previously, there are no such ships currently planned to call the U.S. East Coast.
According to the governor’s office, the work on the outer harbor is 60 percent complete, and the entire project should be completed by 2021. The expanded port will be just one link in a transportation hub the governor’s office said makes Georgia one of the best places for business.
Savannah is served by two Class I rail lines, Norfolk Southern and CSX, and a network of Class III lines operated by Genesee and Wyoming connects Savannah’s port to an inland port at Cordele.
Georgia also is expanded road connections between the port and I-95.
“Our interconnected highways and waterways, combined with a ready-to-work community, create the ideal location for innovative companies to succeed, Vaughan said. “Through forward-thinking infrastructure investments, Georgia is strengthening its position at the forefront of economic development and building upon our existing assets for the future.”