SAVANNAH, Georgia (WTOC) – Total port congestion. This is how a master pilot describes large backups outside the Port of Savannah.
While you can see some ships moored beyond the Talmadge Bridge, around half a dozen others are moored off the coast of Tybee, waiting to be unloaded.
We’re hearing from the Georgia Ports Authority for the first time on how they plan to deal with the backlog. Georgia Ports Authority executives stress that the issues they face concern the entire industry.
In an individual interview, the OMCC spoke with Griff Lynch, Executive Director of the Georgia Ports Authority.
The first thing Lynch wanted people to know is that Santa is always coming to town. He added that while there will be what he calls service spots on some products, 90 percent of products shipped by their customers will hit store shelves across the region.
The remaining ten percent of goods that may still be waiting to be shipped, Lynch said, will eventually arrive.
âWe’ve actually surveyed our biggest customers, and what we’ve seen and heard is that they think most of the product they ship will end up on the shelves,â Lynch said.
Lynch also referred to the import containers that are on the terminal for what is called a “long stay”.
âI am really happy to report that in the last few weeks we have reduced long-term imports by 70%. And I say ‘we’ vaguely. It is the whole maritime community. The truckers, the warehouse workers, the GPA workers here doing 40% overtime, the ILA. “
Lynch said port operations were working 24/7, loading trains, working on the platform and in the yard. The door opening window for coming and going trucks is 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but Lynch says that’s what the need demands right now.
âDuring the summer and those peak months here in the fall, we work until 11 at night when our clients need it.
Lynch said what the GPA has seen over the past year is unprecedented, but hundreds of millions of more dollars are being invested to scale up operations and more people are being hired to meet customer needs.
Lynch explained why we are seeing this coming up to sea here and in other ports across the country. Lynch says one of the most basic reasons is that no one expected this influx of freight that started in the wake of the pandemic.
Lynch says there isn’t enough infrastructure and warehouses to support the influx. And he says it’s not just here in the Savannah area, but across the country.
âWe will have that, and I think it will normalize. Ships actually arrive, and some ships are on time, but some ships arrive as late as thirty days late. “
The OMCC asked Lynch if the port plans to prioritize ships anchored at sea.
âWe were trying to do that, we were trying to prioritize the ships. But at the end of the day, because there are so many, and there are about 20 to 25 vessels at anchor right now … what we said is first come, first served.
Lynch says ships wait between three and six days once they arrive off Georgia’s coast. Lynch says another factor contributing to the challenges is the sheer growth of the Port of Savannah, which was 25 and a half percent from January to today.
” We did not expect that. Now what we’re doing is calling capital projects, speeding up those projects, and trying to build them as quickly as possible.
This includes the construction of more berths and container yards.
Lynch says the GPA has increased its membership over the past year, as has the ILA. That, combined with schools like Savannah Tech training more truck drivers, will be what it takes to support this growth in the years to come.
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