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Global News Savannah working through unexpected backlog of anchored vessels

Registration dateOCT 17, 2023

Teri Errico Griffis, Associate Editor and Ari Ashe, Senior EditorOct 4, 2023, 1:36 PM EDT
Articles reproduced by permission of Journal of Commerce.

Teri Errico Griffis, Associate Editor and Ari Ashe, Senior Editor
Oct 4, 2023, 1:36 PM EDT
Articles reproduced by permission of Journal of Commerce.

Savannah working through unexpected backlog of anchored vessels The Port of Savannah had a backlog of 16 vessels as of Wednesday after a series of closures in recent weeks. Photo credit: Stephen B. Morton / GPB.
The Port of Savannah is working its way through a backlog of 16 vessels that have been stacking up in recent weeks amid a string of closures. While shippers say the situation — which could linger through mid-November — is less than ideal, many noted there has been no significant impact yet.

The domino effect leading up to the delays began in late August when crane equipment arrived at Savannah’s Garden City Terminal, temporarily shutting down two berths. Arrival of the four ship-to-shore cranes required the closures of Berths 1 and 9 at the terminal so the equipment could be discharged from the specialized vessel that carried them, Tom Boyd, spokesperson for Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), told the Journal of Commerce in a statement.

A week later, the US Coast Guard shut Savannah’s shipping channels for two days out of caution due to Hurricane Idalia. While the port didn’t suffer any damage in the storm, the aftermath of the unexpected closures days before Labor Day — one of four days the port is closed each year — created “the perfect storm,” Boyd said.

He expects port operations to be back to “normal” by mid-November.

“The current situation requires aggressive significant catch-up efforts over the next several weeks,” Boyd said. “GPA is doing just that to expedite the vessel queue as quickly as possible.”

As Savannah’s vessel queue ticked higher, so did the delays for vessels sailing to the East Coast from Asia. Late arrivals averaged 7.5 days in September, up from 4.3 days in August, according to Gnosis Freight.
Trans-Pac vessel delays ticked higher in September
Despite the month-long backlog at Savannah, shippers the Journal of Commerce spoke to this week said delays are minor and not a significant disruption to the supply chain because they don’t need the inventory urgently.

“[For] the smaller vessels, we’re seeing typically [a] one-day delay, larger vessels were seeing around three days delay from the estimated arrival, but operations inside the terminal itself are running smoothly as normal,” one shipper, who asked not to be identified, said. “It’s not a major issue for us as we don’t desperately need the cargo.”

Boyd said the vessels that berth at Savannah “are worked extremely efficiently.” Significant investment underway Savannah is undergoing major infrastructure work, with GPA due to spend $4.5 billion over the next 12 years to prepare its facilities for the next “generation of growth in international trade and commerce,” Boyd said.

Projects include renovating the Ocean Terminal to become a fully containerized facility with a capacity of 1.5 million to 2 million TEUs. The port will also update yard capacity, equipment, and make navigation and technology enhancements.

Two of the new ship-to-shore cranes at Savannah stand 306 feet tall, with the other two at 295 feet. Their reach is 24 and 22 containers wide, respectively.

“Container vessels continue to increase in size, and this requires tremendous investment by port authorities such as ours to stay well ahead of any market demand and ocean carrier requirements,” Boyd said.
· Contact Teri Errico Griffis at teri.griffis@spglobal.com. · Contact Ari Ashe at ari.ashe@spglobal.com.