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Savannah port benefits from good access, capacity, proximity to Atlanta: CBRE

Savannah port, truck gate

A new eight-lane truck gate was opened in January in order to reduce the time trucks spend at the Savannah port to pick up and drop cargo. GPA approved in January $55 million in additional infrastructure. File/Credit: GPA/Stephen B. Morton

By David Pendered

A new report by CBRE, the real estate company, sheds light on the reason the Savannah port is growing its cargo business so quickly. It’s because the port has the capacity to handle a lot of freight, which makes it a good choice for shippers looking for a port on the east coast.

Savannah port, truck gate

The Savannah port ranks No. 2 in the nation for its capacity to handle shape with amenities such as this eight-lane truck gate that opened Jan. 28. Credit: Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen B. Morton

Savannah ranks No. 2 in the nation in the category of infrastructure. Only the port in New York and New Jersey are ranked higher, at No. 1, according to the CBRE report.

In addition to an abundance of cranes to move cargo on and off ships, the Savannah port can move cargo in and out on two railroads with track in the port, or via trucks that have direct access to I-95 on the Jimmy DeLoach Parkway Connector.

A downside is that industrial space is tight, with April’s vacancy rate reported at 3 percent by Colliers International. However, 3.6 million square feet is under construction, to add to the existing capacity of 46.4 million square feet, the Georgia Ports Authority announced April 27.

And there’s just no getting around the fact that Atlanta is a destination for a lot cargo, and a logistic hub to manage the rest.

“Savannah and the Georgia Ports Authority continue to offer an efficient and innovative gateway for trade into the Southeast and beyond,” Blaine Kelley, senior vice president in CBRE’s Global Supply Chain Practice, said in a statement.

Sea lanes, Savannah port

Savannah is expanding its role as a major gateway to the southeast and beyond, according to a new report by CBRE. credit: cbre

“Coupled with the dominance of Atlanta as a cost-competitive logistics cluster and distribution point, we expect volume for retail, automotive, and consumer goods to be very strong and to benefit the entire region,” Kelley said.

Savannah’s infrastructure scores high in all the major criteria measured by CBRE.

The volume of cargo handled carries the most weight. Second is the growth in cargo volume.

Cargo is measured by the containers that transport it. The containers are called TEUs because they are 20-foot equivalent units that can be hauled on land by a truck or train.

Savannah has a high rate of cargo growth. In the past two years, Savannah has recorded a 17.7 percent increase in the number of TEUs handled, according to figures provided by the Georgia Ports Authority.

“[O]utsized growth – both short- and long-term – helped boost Savannah and Virginia into the top five with Los Angeles, New York and New Jersey, and Long Beach,” states the CBRE report.

Savannah suffered in the CBRE report for a shortage of industrial space. The Georgia Ports Authority announced in April that 3.6 million square feet of industrial space is under construction. Credit: GPA

Savannah suffered in the CBRE report for a shortage of industrial space. The Georgia Ports Authority announced in April that 3.6 million square feet of industrial space is under construction. Credit: GPA

The other categories are the number of rail lines serving the port; the number of container terminals; mean low water channel depth; total number of cranes; and total number of cranes that can handle the big ships built to use the expanded Panama Canal.

In another ranking by CBRE, an overall catetory, the Savannah port ranked No. 4 in the nation. The port evidently was dinged by factors including the shortage of warehouse space and other real estate considerations. Another issue is the limited width of the Savannah River at the port facility.

Here’s how the report addresses the port’s geographic restrictions:

  • “The outlook for Savannah is mixed, however – as a river port with shallow depths and narrow turning lanes, receiving the larger post- and super post-Panamax ships may prove difficult.”

A harbor deepening project that started last year is to take the Savannah River Shipping Channel to a depth of 47 feet from its current depth of 42 feet. The project stretches 38 miles, according to the CBRE report.

David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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