Savannah Hosts the 2004 China Conference

Hundreds of shipping professionals are in Savannah, learning more about one of the fastest-growing shipping markets. It's one the Georgia Ports Authority believes could bring even more jobs to our area. Savannah is hosting the 2004 China Conference. The city is already home to one of the busiest container ports in the world, and 65 percent of that business comes from Asia, with China accounting for most of that.

And as that country's shipping industry continues to grow, the Ports Authority says the potential for more jobs across the Coastal Empire will grow with it.

Rayonier employs 900 people in Jesup, but that number could grow as the timber and wood products supplier expands its business into China. Terry Bunch, the company's transportation and distribution director, told us, "Our volume to China has been steadily growing and we anticipate it will continue to grow, so for us, it's a net job creator."

Bunch says the company has been exporting products to China for more than 25 years. They now ship 12 percent of their performance products to China, a move that's become easier since they moved their shipping to Savannah. "Previously, the majority of our China volume moved through Charleston, and being able to move here, it reduced our costs and improved our services," said Bunch. "For us, that's the name of the game."

It's a game the Georgia Ports Authority intends to be a major player in. By hosting the third annual China Conference, the Ports Authority is positioning itself to be a big contender in one of the fastest-growing shipping markets in the world.

Already, ships are arriving from or departing to China 14 times a week. "No one except the Port of New York/New Jersey has more on the East Coast, and they only have 16 [weekly services to and from China]," said Georgia Ports Authority executive director Doug Marchand.

The Port of Savannah is the fifth largest port in the United States dealing with Asian trade. As those opportunities for international trade continue to grow, the Georgia Ports Authority says so will jobs. "As we increase our facilities and the efficiency of our facilities and handle more ships and more cargo, those jobs will increase," said Marchand.

The Georgia Ports Authority says many of those new jobs will be comparable to the manufacturing jobs being lost to overseas production. For example, a longshoreman can expect to make $25 to $30 an hour plus benefits.

Reported by: Liz Flynn,