SAVANNAH, Ga. (WALB) - The Port of Savannah is now the top port in the nation for the export of containerized agricultural goods, according to a release from the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA).
Proximity to major producers, direct access via road and rail, broad global network, and responsiveness to customer needs all play a part in the status, the release states.
“Agriculture is a major driver for Georgia’s economy, contributing $74 billion in annual economic benefit and nearly 400,000 jobs across the state,” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “As this country’s No. 1 port for the export of agricultural products, Savannah provides vital support for the state and nation, helping our farmers reach overseas buyers efficiently.”
In 2019, agriculture accounted for 60 percent of Savannah’s exports, or more than 843,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units, according to GPA.
Forest products such as wood pulp, paper, and logs made up the largest category of goods, followed by clay, cotton, poultry and peanuts.
For the current fiscal year, the total loaded exports have increased by 15,500 twenty-foot equivalent container units to 1.33 million TEUs, the release states.
“The production of raw material and agricultural goods, along with their supply chains, have remained strong throughout the pandemic,” Griff Lynch, GPA executive director, said. “The powerful commitment by the agricultural sector mirrors that of GPA’s employees, the International Longshoremen’s Association, and the rest of our maritime logistics community.”
During the pandemic, GPA has focused on ensuring both chassis and empty containers are available to support the movement of export commodities, the release states.
“Through its association with the South Atlantic Chassis Pool II and the completion of a new on-terminal chassis yard, the Port of Savannah provides customers with access to the largest chassis pool in the Southeast,” the release states. “In addition, GPA’s team has focused on cargo owners and other contacts to ensure a reliable supply of containers.”
On-terminal projects to expand export capacity have continued throughout the crisis, including the Mason Mega Rail, with the first nine of 18 new working tracks complete and two new rail-mounted gantry cranes slated to begin work in July.
GPA’s inland terminal, the Appalachian Regional Port, has seen increased volumes and export commodities coming from Northwest Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama.
At the Port of Savannah, GPA has increased its on-time performance of vessel operations to achieve its best performance in three years, according to GPA.
“GPA’s laser focus on the seamless flow of export commodities and the impressive growth at the ARP have created new avenues for American farmers to serve international customers,” said Will McKnight, GPA board chairman, said.
“For our members, the cost-effective movement of goods is a key factor in the profitability of farm and processor operations; working with the leadership of the nation’s international gateways, such as Port of Savannah, serves mutual interests of the port and ag exporters in growing cargo volumes,” Peter Friedmann, AgTC executive director, said.
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Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 439,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $25 billion in income, $106 billion in revenue and $2.9 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy. The Port of Savannah handled 8.5 percent of U.S. containerized cargo volume and 10 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in FY2017.