Facility expansions and improvements contributed to an 8.1 percent increase in container tonnage at Georgia’s ports and the 17th consecutive year of growth, Doug Marchand, executive director of Georgia Ports Authority, told GlobalAtlanta.

“As we have experienced double-digit growth, we have simultaneously reduced turn times and truck congestion by making improvements,” said Mr. Marchand. “As a result, both economic and environmental efficiencies are enhanced. Cargo is being delivered quicker and emissions are being reduced.”

A new container berth at the Savannah port, to be built in two phases by May 2006, will help to continue this growth trend by adding 2,100 feet in linear berthing space and 100 additional acres of container handling and storage area, said Robert Morris, GPA’s director of external affairs.

The first phase includes demolishing an abandoned dock at the site and dredging the ship berthing area. The second project includes the construction of a 1,672-foot dock, estimated to cost $20.5 million.

The container berth is anticipated to create 10,800 new jobs and some $240 million in direct and indirect wages for state workers, said Mr. Morris.

According to the GPA, total tonnage at the deepwater terminals in Savannah and Brunswick, as well as at barge terminals in Bainbridge and Columbus, increased 7.3 percent for the fiscal year ending in June. Traffic in 20-foot equivalent unit containers, which increased 31.5 percent in fiscal 2003, grew an additional 4.5 percent. Auto and machinery units increased by 5 percent.

“The fiscal 2004 figures underscore GPA’s impressive contribution to Georgia’s economy,” said Hugh M. Tarbutton, GPA board chairperson during fiscal 2004, in announcing the results.

According to a recent report by the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, the fiscal 2003 statewide economic impact of Georgia’s deepwater ports includes $35.4 billion in sales, $17.1 billion in gross state product, $10.8 billion in income and 275,968 full- and part-time jobs.

For more information, contact Mr. Morris at (912) 964-3855 or go to www.gaports.org.