Lynch outlines growth prospects for Port of Savannah

Georgia Ports Authority executive director Griff Lynch gave an upbeat outlook for the Port of Savannah as a confluence of domestic and international factors should result in more cargo being channeled to the nation’s fastest-growing port.

Speaking to an audience at the Georgia Foreign Trade Conference on Sea Island, Lynch highlighted the impact of US demographic and industrial trends, as well as shifts in global sourcing, favoring Savannah as a cargo destination.

“The population of the US Southeast is growing faster than any other region in the country, and manufacturers are flocking to the region’s pro-business states,” Lynch said. “Otherwise, production is shifting to locations like India and Vietnam, which prefer delivery via Savannah.”

According to US census data, the population of the southern US grew by 2.3 million people from 2020 to 2022, while the western US saw only an increase of 92,000 people.

Lynch pointed out that the region’s lower operating costs, growing population and logistical advantages make it an attractive market area for producers. He highlighted the recent announcement of Hyundai Metaplant’s branch in the region, which will create a new ecosystem for auto manufacturing and suppliers, and transport cargo through Georgia’s deep sea ports.

The Port of Savannah has benefited as a growing proportion of inbound cargo is diverted from the West Coast due to congestion and now fears of work disruptions. The GPA reports that its share of the US container market has increased from 7.8 percent in fiscal 2014 to a record 11.4 percent in fiscal 2023. Georgia Ports currently handle almost every eighth loaded TEU in the United States.

Increasing trade in agriculture, retail, and manufactured goods has helped the Port of Savannah rank from 46th to 27th in the world since 2006. Lynch noted that shippers are pursuing a “China Plus 1” policy, in which they retain significant manufacturing capacity in China while diversifying supply chains with secondary manufacturing locations.

This strategy has led to a drop in imports from China through the Port of Savannah, from 49 percent in 2018 to 41 percent in 2022, as manufacturers set up factories in growing markets like Vietnam, Korea, Thailand and India.

Lynch expressed confidence that India has the potential to emerge as a potential winner of the “China Plus 1” strategy, thereby benefiting the US East Coast and Savannah, as cargo from India prefers the Suez Canal to reach the US

“As the Southeastern port with the most direct global routes, Savannah is better connected to emerging markets,” said new GPA chief executive Kent Fountain. “Georgia Ports is already convincing in terms of reliability and costs. GPA also now offers a five day advantage in sea transport compared to West Coast delivery from India.”

The increase in freight to Savannah coincides with GPA’s ongoing expansion projects. With $1.9 billion invested in infrastructure initiatives, GPA is renovating three berths to accommodate large vessels and adding 3.5 million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) of new annual terminal capacity.

“We are accelerating investments to ensure we are prepared for growth,” said Joel Wooten, GPA’s current Chairman. “At GPA, we know that the winners of this industry are determined by proactively anticipating market changes.”

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