The Georgia Ports Authority continues to make upgrades and grow cargo volumes at Savannah and Brunswick, but the local chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers last month rated the state's port a "C+".
The Port of Savannah achieved a 12.5 percent gain in volume of standard shipping containers (259,159 TEUs total) for the month of January and the two ports experienced a 7.3 percent increase in overall tonnage to 2.54 million tons compared to January 2013, the state agency said Tuesday.
In Brunswick, the Colonel's Island Terminal led GPA terminals to a 6.1 percent increase in automobile and heavy equipment units moved during the fiscal year since July. Including Savannah's Ocean Terminal, which suffered a major fire at a rubber warehouse earlier this month, the GPA moved 386,070 units of roll-on/roll-off cargo.
During the last fiscal year, the Georgia ports set a tonnage record of 27 million total tons of cargo, handled 11.7 percent more autos and machinery pieces, and enjoyed a 62 percent increase in breakbulk tonnage. Container volumes were flat, but the Port of Savannah remains the fourth largest container port in the nation.
But Georgia's ports received an average grade in the ASCE study, primarily because of the federal government's slowness in getting around to approving dredging the Savannah River from 42 feet to 47 feet. A major water resources bill pending in Congress could soon give the GPA permission to move forward with the $652 million deepening project. ASCE said the GPA has done a good job investing in land-side and berth infrastructure it can control.
It is the first time ports have been evaluated in the association's report card.
Overall, Georgia's infrastructure has not improved during the last five years, according to the report by ASCE's Georgia chapter. In its latest report card on Georgia's infrastructure conditions
, the professional association gave the state a "C."
That's better than the average of "D+" awarded by ASCE in its quadrennial report last year on the state of the nation's infrastructure. The national and state report cards are a way to bring attention to the nation's under-performing infrastructure systems in a simple and easy to understand grading scale. The federal government is facing a looming financial cliff that could hinder highway improvements because the Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of money by August without supplementing revenues from fuel taxes and truck excise taxes.
The aviation system earned the highest grade among the infrastructure components within Georgia, with a "B+". Energy and rail systems, with a "B," had the next highest grades. Roads and bridges each earned a "C-".
Georgia's growing population combined with cutbacks in infrastructure funding resulted in many of the low grades, the report said.
Georgia ranks 49th in America in per capita transportation funding, and its state motor fuel tax is one of the lowest in the country, according to ASCE.
“From the Atlanta airport to the Port of Savannah, Georgia is a major player in the global economy” Kat Gurd, president of the ASCE Georgia Section, said in a statement. “This Report Card shows that our connections to that economy are ailing, hurt too often by underfunding and increasing congestion. If we want to be the gateway to Southeastern commerce, we must deepen the Port of Savannah, increase our transportation funding, and modernize our infrastructure.”
Many manufacturers are expanding in Georgia and they are doing so in part because of the expectation they can efficiently move their goods to market, ASCE officials said.