State ports chart record tonnage
by W. Winston Skinner
Georgia's ports continue to have a major economic impact in Coweta County.
The ports in Savannah and Brunswick recently experienced a record monthly level of cargo. The Georgia Ports Authority moved 2.4 million tons of cargo in April, a 4.7 percent increase - or 108,532 tons - over the same month in 2012.
The record figure was boosted by a strong performance in containers, bulk and Roll-on/Roll-off cargo. 'Our drawing power for cargo is only getting stronger,' said Curtis Foltz, executive director of GPA.
Candace Boothby, president of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who lives near Grantville, both talked about the importance of the ports for Coweta County businesses and industries.
'Our businesses are now in competition with the world markets and not just the domestic one. Our large international corporate base continues to grow, and more efficient and cost-effective ways of getting product to market are essential,' Boothby said.
' Georg i a's por t s a re extremely important to our state's economy. They provide a much-needed link to our overseas trading partners and help make Georgia an integral part of commerce in the United States,' Westmoreland said.
'According to a study last year by the University of Georgia, our state's deepwater ports support more than 350,000 jobs across the state. With those numbers, our ports account for about 8 percent of employment in Georgia - one out of every 12 jobs,' the congressman said.
'On top of that, Georgia ports account for $1.4 billion in revenue for the state and $1.1 billion in local revenue,' he added.
Both Boothby and Westmoreland talked about the importance of deepening the Savannah port. Boothby noted all exports from eastern Asia - 'China and Japan mainly - ship through the Panama Canal to reach the eastern seaboard.
'The Panama Canal is currently being deepened and widened to accommodate the newer, larger ships. If U.S. ports don't deepen and widen their facilities, they simply will be bypassed to a port that can accommodate these shipments,' Boothby said.
According to a May 6 report on National Public Radio, Baltimore, Md., and Norfolk, Va. are currently the only ports on the eastern seaboard that are deep enough to accommodate the larger ships coming through the Panama Canal.
Failing to deepen the Savannah port will mean 'job losses at the ports - followed by decreased plant expansions in Coweta and the rest of Georgia,' Boothby said. 'Think of Georgia without the Atlanta international airport and you can quickly gain an appreciation for the need.'
'It's so important to support our ports, especially the project to deepen the Savannah port,' Westmoreland stated.
'The Savannah port was the second busiest U.S. container port for exporting American goods by tonnage in the 2011 fiscal year. Once the Panama Canal completes its expansion in 2015, larger transport ships will become the new norm and it is imperative that our state's largest port be able to accommodate them,' he added.
Westmoreland said the state must deepen the Savannah port from its current 42 feet to 47 feet.
'As of April of this year, Georgia has allocated $231.1 mi l l ion towa rd expanding the Savannah port. Overall, the project is anticipated to cost $652 million, however the Army Corps of Engineers believes it will have a 5.5 to one benefit,' Westmoreland said. 'This means for every dollar spent to deepen the port, we will bring in $5.50 in benefits.'
Gov. Nathan Deal has also been vocal in his support of the port-deepening effort. 'We know that this project is important - not just for the Savannah area,' Deal said. 'It's important for the state of Georgia, and it is also important for the United States.'
'We are seeing strong performance because cargo owners know they can get their goods to market faster when they come through Georgia,' said Robert Jepson, GPA board chairman.
'Our streamlined service onport, combined with better connections to the hinterlands by road and rail, make our deepwater ports the obvious choice for global trade.'