Georgia Port Expedites Expansion to Decrease Bottleneck, a Key Contributor to Inflation

On Monday, The Georgia Ports Authority to speed up a $150 million expansion at the Port of Savannah to decrease bottleneck issues, a key contributor to inflation.

The port, which is the country's fourth-busiest port for container cargo, has seen an increase in cargo volumes that has caused a space shortage in its container yard and has left ships waiting at sea, The Associated Press reported. This caused Savannah to experience the busiest month ever in October. During this month, there were over 500,000 container units imported and exported—a first.

In the 2021 fiscal year that ended June 30, there was a record 5.3 million container units handled at the Port of Savannah.

The plan is to increase the port's capacity by 25 percent by June, which the state agency's governing board approved.

"It was in our long-range plan, but we're expediting it," Griff Lynch, the port authority's executive director, told the AP. "None of this was planned for this year or next year."

The new space for storing containers will be around 150 acres, Lynch said. By January, over a third of the approximate 150 acres should be ready. He added that the port will be able to manage an additional 1.6 million cargo containers a year.

The $150 million expansion will not only cover developing the land for container storage but also provide funding for equipment. On Monday, the board approved $24.4 million towards new electric-powered cranes for lifting and moving containers into the expanded space.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Port of Savannah, Expansion, Bottlenecking, Inflation
The Georgia Ports Authority has announced it has opened all 18 working tracks at its rail terminal, increasing the port's intermodal capacity by more than 30 percent. Above, a rail-mounted gantry crane lifts a 40-foot shipping container and loads it onto a rail car at the Georgia Ports Authority Mason Mega Rail Terminal on October 21, 2021, in Savannah, Georgia. Stephen B. Morton/AP Photo

Like other U.S. seaports, the Port of Savannah has scrambled to work through traffic jams caused by record volumes of shipping containers piling up as the economy rebounds from the pandemic. The giant metal boxes are used to transport a wide range of goods from consumer electronics to frozen chickens.

Officials have been using inland sites to temporarily store cargo and free up space at Savannah's container terminal. The port authority was authorized by the federal government to use $8 million in leftover grant money to set up four such "pop up" container yards in different areas of the state.

Lynch said efforts to reduce the backlog are paying off. The Savannah port had about 67,000 containers at its terminal Monday, he said, compared to roughly 85,000 in September. And the 13 ships anchored off the coast waiting to enter the port were about half the peak number months ago.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Lynch said. "We think this will continue on up through the first quarter of 2022 at least."

Port of Savannah, Expansion, Bottlenecking, Inflation
The plan, approved by the Georgia Ports Authority's governing board, is to increase container capacity for the Port of Savannah by 25 percent. In this photo, containers are stacked at the Port of Savannah on November 12, 2021, in Savannah, Georgia. Sean Rayford/Getty Images