Georgia Ports Authority Has Banner Year in 2013, Looks to Top It in 2014

Shawndra Russell

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

When success is part of your DNA, it can become tempting to rest on your laurels and keep doing more of the same. Or, your company can keep your foot on the gas and strive for more. Georgia Ports Authority certainly falls into the latter category, partly because the whole state—heck, the whole country—is watching. With an estimated $652 million Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) rolling out in 2014, working to excel in every area of operating is an inherent expectation. 

For 2014, Executive Director of Georgia Ports Authority Curtis Foltz says, “We will continue working with the Georgia General Assembly in 2014, to fulfill Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget request for an additional $35 million in port deepening funds. This will bring the total state allotment to $266 million, covering the state’s portion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) costs. This advance funding will allow major contract awards and the deepening to begin during 2014.”

The immediate impact of SHEP is projected to stretch from Illinois to Dallas and everything to the East of these cities, but really, with the increase in federal taxes from their current amount of $4.5 billion, its remunerations are nationwide. Of course, Georgia will reap the most benefits from SHEP. “The Georgia Ports Authority played an important role in bringing new jobs and industry to the state in 2013. Access to our deepwater ports was a key driver in private investment in cold storage logistics, increased business in automobile exports and the location of new manufacturing facilities in Georgia,” Foltz says.

But 2014 will not just be about economic development. “The GPA will take further steps toward greater efficiency and reduced environmental impact. One such step will be the continued transition of our container handling fleet to eRTGs, which reduce diesel consumption by 95 percent per equipment operating hour,” Foltz says. “The GPA was the first port in North America to adopt eRTG technology. We also added four new super-post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes. At 25 ship-to-shore cranes, Garden City Terminal in Savannah has the most cranes of any single terminal in the U.S.”

Another way the GPA is paving the way for other ports is pushing for the final passage of the Water Resources Development Act. Foltz explains, “By updating the spending limit set when Congress first authorized the project in 1999, WRDA will clear the way for construction to begin on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. The bill is currently in a House-Senate conference committee. Upon passage, the measure will address infrastructure needs, begin better fiscal alignment with the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and improve the process for waterway projects built in concert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.” 

2013 resulted in numerous other positives for GPA, including regaining market share and “hosting 

all six services of the new G6 Alliance of major shipping lines,” Foltz says, adding that GPA defines success “by providing the services customers need to move their products overseas or to domestic markets, so that goods reach shelves more quickly, safely, reliably and at the lowest possible cost. It is the constant improvement of our infrastructure and processes to increase on-terminal efficiency, and the free flow of information between the GPA and port users, so that customers can better track their cargo.” 

And with an organization this size, the ripple effect of benefits for the community are numerous, such as attracting new businesses to the area like Hankook Tires and Shaw Industries. That means even more state and local taxes on top of the already $2.5 billion that Georgia Ports Authority contributed in the previous fiscal year. Plus, the completion of the Jimmy Deloach Parkway, something pushed by GPA, is expected to wrap up by the spring of 2016 and will create a direct truck route between the Garden City terminal and I-95.  

But Foltz is quick to point out that being a business in Georgia is mutually beneficial for GPA, too. “With competitive assets including two Class I rail lines, the busiest airport in the world, and the fastest growing ports in the nation, Georgia sets the standard for moving people and goods efficiently. And an important facet of our success is our geographical advantage. The Port of Savannah’s location as the most westerly of the Atlantic Coast ports makes it a hub for the export of American-made products from cities such as Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, Louisville, Charlotte and beyond.”

Another location-related advantage? “Room to grow,” Foltz says. “On terminal, that means that while we currently handle about 3 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) per year, our strategic plans will allow us to handle 6.5 million TEUs without increasing our physical footprint. Off terminal, it means a wealth of industrial real estate available for development that is near the port and to major interstates.”

But it’s not only being a Georgia business and striving for more efficiency that contributes to their success: it’s the people that make up GPA. Foltz says, “We keep our team members involved, and make sure that they understand that their input and effort is an important part of our overall success. We hold weekly inter-departmental sessions in which we review recent successes and plan for upcoming challenges. At the end of the day, we share our challenges and successes with all our employees and make sure they and we never forget that it is the 1,000-person GPA team that represents this great organization.”

To find out more about SHEP and other GPA news, visit