Port continuing to deepen harbor after setting cargo record in August

Savannah’s port on Friday hosted the largest cargo ship ever to call on the U.S. East Coast, according to the Georgia Ports Authority.

The CMA CGM Brazil, based in France, can transport 15,072 twenty-foot containers and was scheduled to unload and load the equivalent of 5,600 of those containers.

The ship arrived as Savannah continues to deepen the harbor, part of the authority’s plans to boost Georgia’s importance in global trade. That strategy includes rail lines to a massive inland “port” in northwest Georgia where shipments are transferred to trucks.

Georgia Ports — Savannah and Brunswick — recorded their busiest month ever in August, largely on the strength of a surge in imports, after volumes fell earlier this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, state port officials told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week.

Spectators gather to watch the big container ship docking at the Port of Savannah, Friday, Sept., 18, 2020, in Savannah, Ga. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

“It is clear that our efforts to expand capacity and reach are taking hold,” Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said Friday.

The CMA CGM Brazil will unload shipments from Asia targeted for huge retailers around the region. It will take on poultry, wood products and cotton from Georgia, Lynch told the AJC.

Because of its enormity, the ship cannot sail into Savannah with a full load at anything but high tide. Work is continuing on deepening the harbor and when that project is finished in about two years, that restriction will be lifted.

Larger ships are more efficient, allowing workers to transfer more cargo in a shorter time, Lynch said. “We are currently averaging about 1,700 or 1,800 (containers) per vessel. Ten years ago, the average was about 700 per vessel.”

Until Friday, the largest ship to call on Savannah was the Evergreen Theseus from Taiwan. The ship, which was in Savannah in February, can handle 14,354 twenty-foot containers.

On the West Coast, there are few restrictions on a ship’s size. The largest ship thus far to call has been the ULCV MSC Anna, which can handle 19,000 twenty-foot containers, according to the trade publication Maritime Executive.

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