Port of Savannah business down due to change

ATLANTA — The Port of Georgia saw a rare dip in activity last month.

The Port of Savannah handled 464,883 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) of containerized cargo in November, down 6.2 percent from a year earlier.

Savannah’s numbers, however, have grown 28 percent in three years. That growth rate is well above the authorities’ average annual expansion rate of 4% to 5% before the pandemic.

“Container trade at U.S. ports is returning to a more sustainable growth pattern, which is a positive development for the logistics industry,” said Griff Lynch, executive director of the bureau.

“With annual capacity added to more than 1 million TEUs, a small reduction in demand will mean faster vessel service as we work to open a new large vessel berth at Garden City Terminal in July.”

The effects of inflation and shifting consumer spending patterns are partly responsible for the reduction in manufacturing and subsequent container demand. Weather also played a role in the November decline.

The Savannah River waterway was closed to the largest ships for more than three days last month due to severe weather conditions, including Tropical Storm Nicole.

“While we plan to slow container trade, we expect volumes to remain strong, albeit below last year’s record highs,” said Joel Wooten, chairman of the authority’s board of directors. “Announcements from automakers and other manufacturers coming to Georgia, along with a range of their suppliers, will mean a long-term healthy increase in trade.”

Lynch said the current lull has allowed the Port of Savannah to reduce the number of container ships waiting in port to 17, down 43% since early November, when 30 ships were berthed. Authorities expect to clear the backlog by early next month.

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