Ports in the US continue to grow despite disruptions to global trade, with ports on the West Coast seeing annualised volume increases in the mid-single digit percentages and hitting record throughput volumes. However, the changing patterns of trade are continuing to increase demand for East-Coast ports, especially those in the south-eastern states. For example, the Port of Savannah over the past year saw container throughput grow by 7.3% to 4.5m TEUs with intermodal traffic jumping by 17%.
This growth is stimulating significant investment in new infrastructure. The Georgia Ports Authority has indicated its intention to build a new container terminal at Hutchinson Island which is opposite the existing Garden City terminal on the Savannah River. This new terminal is projected to have a capacity of 2.5m TEU. This, combined with continued expansion such as the addition of more cranes at Garden City, will result in a doubling of the port complex’s present capacity to 11m TEUs. The Savannah River channels into the container terminals will also continue to be dredged, giving greater berthing opportunities for vessels up to 14,000 TEU.
In addition, the port of Savannah and the wider Georgia Ports Authority is continuing to expand the rail capacity in around Savannah with the ‘Mason Mega Rail Terminal’ project looking to open its first stage next year. It is a part of a $200m investment programme to improve both productivity and capacity for intermodal traffic in the State of Georgia’s ports.
A nodal point capable of handling 11m TEUs is sizeable even by Chinese standards. If this is delivered it will make the Savannah a port of some significance at the global level. The drivers behind this growth certainly include the expansion of the Panama Canal and the implication it has for access to East Asian traffic, but it is not just this which has led to the growth of South Eastern Ports in the US. Not only do the European trades remain important but trade with South America has grown as has that with Western Asia economies. It is a strong indication that international trade remains important, that trade patterns are changing and moving away from the traditional dominance of trans-pacific route.
Source: Transport Intelligence, September 19, 2019
Author: Thomas Cullen