The Port of Savannah continues to be a magnet for retail, manufacturing and multi-tenant distribution centers, with more than 1.1 million square feet of space leased or developed in fiscal year 2013, ended June 30, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz said Thursday in his annual State of the Port address.
More than 300,000 square feet of that real estate conversion is dedicated to cold storage, he said, according to a news release from the port authority. A full transcript of his remarks was not immediately available.
For more than 15 years, the area surrounding the Port of Savannah has become a prime distribution area for shippers as they diversified their international gateways from primary reliance on West Coast ports. Savannah's advantages include superior rail and highway access, the largest single container terminal in North America, efficient port operations, low taxes and good state labor laws, and port officials that work closely with shippers, not just ocean carriers, to create effective logistics arrangements.
New tenants near the port include Nordic Logistics, Gulf States Cold Storage, appliance maker Haier America, medical supplier Dukal, third-party logistics provider OHL, Kent Bicycle, Giumarra International Berry and Huffy Bicyclees, Foltz said.
He also reiterated the fiscal year cargo volume records and other growth achieved by the ports of Savannah and Brunswick, which the GPA first announced in late July. The port authority moved a record 27 million total tons of cargo, up 2.4 percent from the prior year. It handled 637,000 autos and pieces of machinery, up 11.7 percent, part of which resulted from new export business from Toyota and Nissan, and imports from Subaru, Foltz said.
Breakbulk tonnage grew 62 percent to 2.5 million tons, helped in part by a 152,000-ton increase in wood pellet exports at Brunswick's East River Terminal, the GPA said in July. The GPA also set a record with 315,000 intermodal container lifts.
The summary of Foltz's speech did not mention container activity, but according to figures released in July, the Port of Savannah's box volume remained flat at 2.94 million TEUs. Savannah, however, remains the fourth-largest container port in the United States.
The GPA continues to upgrade its facilities to become a preferred destination for shippers and carriers.
In early June, the Port of Savannah received four super post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes that can reach 22 rows across, part of a $186 million capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. Other improvements recently completed or underway include the installation of 20 additional refrigerated container racks, with 24 plug-in slots, at the Garden City Terminal, which will increase the total capacity for reefer containers to more than 2,600 per week. The port is also investing in 20 new rubber-tired gantry cranes, paving, upgrades to mooring bollards to serve larger ships, and a 500-ton, heavy-lift barge crane.
"Savannah's role as the gateway to commerce for the Southeast requires the port to stay on the cutting edge of infrastructure, equipment and technology," Foltz said.
State officials are also eager to begin deepening the Savannah River and harbor from 42 feet to 47 feet to accommodate ever-larger cargo vessels. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given its final approval for the project. The Senate and House versions version of the Water Resources Development Act approves the $652 million estimated cost of the deepening, with about 60 percent of the cost to be covered by the federal government. The House bill first surfaced this week, but the Senate has already approved its version.
Vice President Joseph Biden is scheduled to visit the Port of Savannah on Monday where he will speak about the importance of infrastructure investment. - Eric Kulisch