Cargo imported through Savannah will now get 3-day rail service to Chicago, officials say

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A view of the ship-to-rail operations at Savannah, Ga.
A view of the ship-to-rail operations at Savannah, Ga.
Georgia Ports Authority, Stephen B. Morton
SAVANNAH, Ga. — Rail is a key component in expansion of the Port of Savannah, with new fast service to Chicago and development of new infrastructure.

Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, introduced three-day CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern service between the port and Chicago while addressing an audience of 1,400 at Thursday’s Savannah State of the Port meeting

Calling the service a “game changer” in the port’s growth, Lynch says, “We’re now moving containers from ship to departing rail in only 24 hours — two-and-a-half times faster than our previous schedule — which makes Savannah competitive on time and lower on cost compared to traditional cargo routings.”

As a result of increasing rail demand, the Port of Savannah is in the midst of a $220-million expansion of its rail facilities, says Will McKnight, the ports authority's board chairman.

Phase I of the ports authority’s Mason Mega Rail terminal is slated for completion in the spring of 2020, with Phase II done the following fall. The expansion will double the port’s rail lift capacity to 1 million containers per year, officials say.

“The Mason Mega Rail Terminal will be the largest on-dock rail facility at any port in North America,” McKnight says. “It will allow the Authority to shift more of its cargo mix from truck to rail, so that we can grow our overall volumes without congestion at our truck gates.”

Savannah has gambled on massive infrastructure projects targeted at securing larger container ships now able to pass through the Panama Canal following the canal’s expansion three years ago.

The effort to date apparently has been successful as the Georgia Ports Authority reports record volumes in containers, total tonnage, and freight moved by rail.

Twenty-foot equivalent container traffic was up 7% at the end of the fiscal year in June to 4.5 million.

“The market has clearly chosen the Port of Savannah as the Southeastern hub for containerized trade,” says Lynch. “To fulfill the growing responsibility placed on our deepwater terminals, we have developed a plan to double our capacity.”

Current capacity is 5.5 million TEUs; plans call for a capacity of 11 million.

Besides rail, port officials say other expansion projects include more cranes, revamped dock space to accommodate more large ships, and a new terminal at Hutchinson Island.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the final stages of deepening the Savannah harbor, officials say.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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