Ports breaking records, attracting politicians

by W. Winston Skinner

The Port of Savannah continues to set new records - and to attract the attention of politicians.

At a recent Georgia Ports Authority board meeting, Curtis Foltz, executive director of GPA, reported that the authority achieved record volumes and added additional customer accounts in October. 'Strong growth, new customer accounts and additional harbor deepening funding announced (in November) ... are all positive signs that Georgia's ports are moving in the right direction,' said Foltz.

Georgia ports moved a record 2.54 million tons of cargo during October - a 22 percent increase over the same month a year ago. The Colonel's Island Terminal at the Port of Brunswick and Savannah's Ocean Terminal combined to move a record 62,343 units of automobiles and heavy machinery in October, for an increase of 10,045, or 19.2 percent, over October 2012.

October's growth pushed total tonnage to 9.6 million for the fiscal year to date, a 9.2 percent increase over the same period in FY2013.

Also in October, the GPA achieved a 19 percent increase in 20-foot equivalent container units (TEUs), reaching 274,362 TEUs - an increase of 43,723 for the month. For the fiscal year, the GPA has moved 1.06 million TEUs, for a 5.3 percent increase over the previous year.

Democrats and Republicans have been strong supporters of the ports - and of obtaining federal dollars to expand the Savannah ports. Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, have been vocal advocates for the ports project.

'The superior efficiency of our ports is a powerful draw, bringing jobs and commerce to the state,' Deal said. 'Georgia ports have risen to prominence by partnering with U.S. companies seeking new markets for their products. Today, the Georgia Ports Authority serves about 21,000 companies from all 50 states.'

In November, Deal announced his intention to seek another $35 million from the General Assembly to help fund the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. The new request will bring the total state dollars allotted to the harbor deepening to $266 million. This would fulfill the state's portion of the total project cost of $652 million.

U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a Republican who lives near Grantville, has been vocal about the need to deepen the Savannah port from 42 feet to 47 feet.

'It's so important to support our ports, especially the project to deepen the Savannah port,' Westmoreland stated. '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.'

U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn, a Democrat, is among the political figures visiting the Savannah port recently. 'It's a rare example of where I think we have a great bipartisan support,' said Nunn following a private tour. 'We need to ensure that the port is fully funded. Certainly the state has taken the lead, but we need to get the federal funding that has been well articulated as being important.'

'The harbor deepening and the GPA have enjoyed the steadfast support of our state leaders and our delegation to Washington from the start of this project in 1999,' said Robert Jepson, chairman of the GPA board. 'The commitment and foresight of Gov. Deal and others have brought us to where we stand today -ready to begin construction.'

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