'State of the Ports' Address held at Savannah International Trad - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

'State of the Ports' Address held at Savannah International Trade Center

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

Hundreds gathered at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center Thursday to hear from Georgia Ports Authority’s Executive Director Curtis Foltz.

The port had a record breaking year, seeing more vessels and cargo coming through our port. Part of it was thanks to the west coast, where labor was delayed earlier this year as port truck drivers and workers renegotiated contracts. Ships that normally would have gone to the west coast, were re-routed here.

"It gives us opportunities to prove to customers when these things happen, that we want your business and so we have made a lot of new customers just by being able to take advantage of that unfortunate thing that was going on on the west coast," said Curtis Foltz, GPA executive director. 

Foltz announced that more than 3.5 million containers came through our docks. All of that cargo has to be transported somehow, so we immediately thing it all goes on trucks. But that is not always the case.

In fact, they are starting to transport more cargo by train.

The Georgia Ports Authority has established what they call “inland ports”, where cargo is transported by train. There’s one in southwest Georgia in Cordele, and they will open up another one in the northwest part of the state in Chatsworth. 

This year, trains transported nearly 370,000 containers. Truck traffic will also be alleviated when the Jimmy DeLoach Parkway extension is completed next year. It will provide a direct route from the terminal to I-95 and I-16, separating truck and commuter traffic. 

"Anytime you can help get more room on your roads, the better that we are and also the turnaround time for getting merchandise to the ports or from ports to businesses here in the state of Georgia and the surrounding states is a very positive thing for us,” said Ann Purcell, GDOT board member.

This was the first year Executive Director Foltz was able to announce the deepening of the Savannah Harbor is finally under way.

Crews began deepening the outer channel this month, but there's already been a hiccup in the project's progress. Before the inner channel can be deepened, crews will blend oxygen into the water to protect the environment. In August, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded the contract to a company they selected, but a company that lost filed a protest.

"That means they thought they should have gotten the award,” said Russell Wicke, Army Corps of Engineers.

So instead of being able to start the dissolved oxygen system process, the Army Corps now has to put it on hold and prove to the federal government that they selected the best company. A process that could take almost 100 days.

"Make no mistake, we have not crossed the finish line and I think you'll see things like that throughout the project,” said Foltz.

Officials said it's just a hiccup in the grand scheme of a five-year project. Now, there are bigger concerns about making sure it's consistently funded. Georgia has already set aside their share but they are depending on the federal government to fund a big chunk of the project in 2017.

"That’s when the Army Corps is going to need about 100 million dollars to keep the project on schedule,” said Foltz. 

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