The Port of Savannah continues to expand its inventory of towering ship-to-shore cranes.
The larger cranes are designed to accommodate giant cargo ships arriving through the expanded Panama Canal. The port itself is being reworked to serve the larger ships – maintaining Savannah’s position as a major port in the southeastern United States and an economic generator for the region.
Coweta businesses and industries import many products that come through the ports. Some local industries also ship finished products from Savannah to ports around the world.
Four new cranes measuring 295 feet tall arrived by ship at the port a few weeks ago. The port's Garden City Terminal now has 26 total cranes – more than at any other U.S. port – used to load and unload cargo containers from ships.
“For customers, it means the capacity to move up to a thousand containers per hour across a single dock at America’s largest terminal – allowing us to work more vessels, more quickly,” said Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority. “It means getting cargo to market and getting ships back out to sea with unmatched efficiency.”
The new cranes have a reach of roughly 200 feet, allowing them to handle cargo on supersized ships that began navigating the Panama Canal's expanded locks in June.
Designed by Konecranes of Finland, the cranes can work the largest ships calling on the U.S. East Coast, reaching across vessels 22 containers wide.
“We’re growing our crane fleet in order to stay ahead of demand,” said Ed McCarthy, the Ports Authority chief operating officer. “Since the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in June, Garden City Terminal has seen a 40 percent increase in the number of vessels carrying 8,000 or more twenty-foot-equivalent container units.”
Another four Panamax cranes are scheduled to arrive in 2018, bringing Savannah’s total to 30.
The new cranes, along with the Savannah Harbor deepening, help to accommodate a move in the world fleet toward larger ships. Through its expanded locks, the Panama Canal can now accommodate vessels nearly triple the size of the previous maximum.
The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, S.612, which includes the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, received final Senate approval in December, passing by a bipartisan vote of 78-21.
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., hailed the final Senate passage of the legislation. “Ensuring better funding for the deepening of the Port of Savannah is good news for Georgia,” he said.
“Keeping this project on track has required a nonstop effort from countless leaders to ensure we are progressing, and this law will help to save the state of Georgia millions of dollars towards this project. This project is a win for trade, a win for the economy and a win for the hundreds of thousands of jobs” supported by the port, Isakson said.
The Water Infrastructure Act allows for the federal taxpayers to foot 75 percent of the cost of harbor deepening projects up to 50 feet. Isakson has been a strong advocate for ports funding throughout the legislative process, which has taken place over several years.
The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project was authorized in the Water Resources and Development Act of 1999 to deepen the Savannah River from its current 42-foot depth to as much as 48 feet. Garrett Hawkins, an aide to Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., said the extra depth will allow an additional 3,600 cargo containers in each transit.
Prior to the new legislation, the federal share dropped to 50 percent when new construction went deeper than 45 feet.
Additionally, each year the revenues that will go to harbor maintenance will be at least 103 percent of the previous year’s amount. The last Water Resources Development Act set a timetable for ports getting all the revenues collected from the harbor maintenance tax. The new bill ensures money collected in the harbor maintenance trust fund will be used to continually improve U.S. waterways.
“The nation’s waterways serve as engines for economic growth and job creation,” Graves said.
“The Port of Savannah contributes $174 million in annual net benefits to the United States and supports 21,000 American businesses,” Graves said. “This bill ensures the Port of Savannah continues to thrive by authorizing the resources necessary to keep the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project on schedule – a top economic priority for Georgia.”