It was a record year for the Georgia Ports authority.
Executive Director Curtis Foltz presented the annual State of the Port Address on Thursday at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center.
Foltz said that during the 2013 fiscal year, the ports saw record cargo volumes, an influx of new business and more than 1 million square feet of distribution center space leased or developed. The ports handled a record 27 million tons of cargo.
That's an increase of 2.4 percent. They also hit records for handling auto and machinery shipments, bulk cargo and intermodal containers.
Remember that shipment of huge cranes that we captured on camera months ago? Foltz said they added four super post panamaz cranes, the largest ship-to-shore cranes in the world.
They also now have a 3D crane simulator. Georgia Ports are the first Southeast port to use this technology.
Foltz said work has already begun on the Garden City Terminal Beltway, which will help with all that port traffic.
"It will be far less and I think in it's simplest terms all of the studies that have been done as we continue to grow what that will result in as a 5,000 truck reduction per day on Highway 21," Foltze said. "So they are going to pull that traffic out off 21 and 307, so [it's] a significant reduction on the heavy industrial traffic."
Foltz had a lot to say about the progress on the Savannah Harbor deepening project and Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the ports next week.
"We should have been digging long ago. This is too late on anybody scale of measure," he said.
Foltz said that is why Biden's visit the next week is so important because Congress needs to take action on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. He also stressed that federal funding needs to be forthcoming.
"You look at Port of Savannah being No. 2 export port in the United States, and the idea we are really pushing hard for global competitiveness in export success. You really need the port of Savannah to be dredging and need the port of Savannah to grow and finish with the opening of the Panana canal," said President and CEO, CG/LA Infrastructre Inc. Norman Anderson.
Biden had been scheduled to visit the Panama Canal, but the Associated Press reports that his trip has been canceled. It's a trip that Foltz had hoped would help push the project forward.
"The importance is he is going to get a chance on U.S. soil to see what needs to occur and he is going to go to the Panana canal and see how it is going to open trade up and opportunity's for the U.S., the East Coast and the Southeast," said Foltz.
Despite the many setbacks, Foltz said there are many milestones to celebrate; such as a record of decision issued last October, a successful mediation with South Carolina Environmental interests, and Governor deals $50 million SHEP budget request.