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Agribiz: Georgia Ports Authority moves more cargo

POSTED: March 27, 2014 12:35 a.m.

Georgia ports are busy. There is no doubt it is a big part of the economic engine in the Southeast.

Forty percent of America’s poultry exports leave the Port of Savannah each year. The volume of cargo and merchandize that comes in and out is truly mind-blowing.

So when an increase in movement is reported, one has to wonder how that happens. I guess it’s the economy.

The Georgia Ports Authority has moved more than 2 million 20-foot equivalent container units so far this fiscal year (July-February), for an increase of 6.2 percent, or an additional 119,318 TEUs.

“The strong growth experienced throughout our business sectors this fiscal year demonstrates the resilience and strength of the Southeast market, and a positive return on the continued investments in Georgia’s ports, rail, roads and logistical supply chain,” GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz reported to the authority board Monday.

Foltz said he expects similar growth through the final quarter of the fiscal year.

In total, the GPA moved 19.2 million tons of cargo in the fiscal year to date, an increase of 7.6 percent, or 1.3 million tons. Growth across major cargo sectors contributed to the improvement.

The GPA achieved an increase of 5.6 percent in roll-on/roll-off cargo through February, moving 438,990 automobile and machinery units — up 23,322 units compared to July-February of fiscal year 2013. Bulk cargo such as soybeans and wheat rose 6.6 percent for the fiscal year through February to reach 1.86 million tons — an improvement of 114,868 tons over the same period last year.

In monthly totals, the GPA handled 2.4 million total tons in February, an increase of 5.4 percent, or 122,060 tons.

Foltz reported that Georgia’s deepwater ports set a record in February, handling the highest volume of containers ever for a February, at 248,746 TEUs, an increase of 2.6 percent. Breakbulk commodities increased by 8.8 percent (15,568 tons) last month, for a total of 192,204 tons. Meanwhile, February bulk cargo rose by 33 percent (69,745 tons) year over year to reach 280,477 tons.

Foltz also reported the FY2015 state budget approved by the Georgia General Assembly includes an additional $35 million in state funds for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. This funding, initially proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal, brings the state allocation to $266 million, fulfilling Georgia’s portion of the total project costs estimated at $652 million.

“Georgia stands ready to begin the harbor deepening, and we are working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete all preconstruction activities allowed,” said GPA Board Chairman Robert Jepson. “The GPA and the Corps of Engineers have a draft cost-sharing agreement ready to sign as soon as Congress passes the Water Resource Development Act — a measure which will update the budget amount to the current estimate of $652 million.”

Source: Georgia Port Authority, http://www.gaports.com/Media/PressReleases.aspx

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears biweekly on Thursday’s Business page and at gainesvilletimes.com.


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