An increase in container traffic at the Port of Savannah by 150 percent over the next 15 years presents opportunities as well as challenges, among them a need to deepen the port to 48 feet, said Doug Marchand, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, at the annual State of the Port address last week,

Mr. Marchand based growth projections on an analysis of trends in containerized trade, current projected shipping schedules, major distribution centers, and rail and intermodal access.

“Based on these models, conservative estimates indicate that the Port of Savannah will handle 4 million TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent container Unit) by 2018, or that Savannah will experience 150 percent growth in less than 15 years,” he said, speaking to the Propeller Club of Savannah and the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce.

However, less conservative estimates indicate that the port must be prepared to handle double its current volume by 2013 and 4.3 million TEUs by 2018, he said.

These growth projections follow a 289 percent increase in container traffic since 1990.

Asserting that Georgia’s port authority is a major economic powerhouse for the country as well as Savannah and Georgia, Mr. Marchand said the opportunities and challenges are no longer local or regional in scope.

“This is a call to action,” he said.

Among the challenges cited, Mr. Marchand said the Savannah port must be deepened to 48 feet to accommodate larger container vessels. “Target completion of the Draft Tier 2 Environmental Impact Study for the deepening is slated for the second half of 2005,” he said. “We believe the deepening can be accomplished while protecting the environment.”

In addition to new facilities and infrastructure improvements, he said the business and maritime community must collaborate on projects beyond the terminal.

“Together, we will need to build new roads and other transportation connectors. We need to improve our rail capabilities and take better advantage of both Class I railroads that have access to our terminal. We must push our geographic reach as far out from Georgia as we possibly can. This also will create more jobs for the citizens of our state,” he said.

Also, new workers must be educated and trained, he said, and universities, technical schools, community leaders and politicians must be called upon for assistance.

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