The port contains over 50 piers, wharves, and docks, many of which are designed for multiple purposes, while others are specialized for cargo such as sugar, fuel, gypsum, kaolin, and timber products. The two Georgia Ports Authority terminals are a major site for the transshipment of containerized cargo. While the rankings fluctuate, Savannah is usually ranked about third or fourth for the number of containers shipped in the United States and second only to Baltimore on the Atlantic coast.
Our virtual tour will actually begin at the outer marker of the Savannah River Channel and follow the pathway of the ships up the river, all the way to the top of the port, covering approximately 31 miles. We will point out various sites of interest, such as the Cockspur Light, Coast Guard Station Tybee, the two forts, the Pilot House, and downtown, which aren’t terminals, but lie along the way.
The Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge stands as a spectacular arch, marking the entrance to the western portion of the Savannah Port. But the “Port of Savannah” is much larger. Numerous industries and terminals line the river, starting several miles east of the bridge, beginning with the Kender Morgan – Southern LNG facility at Elba Island. Other facilities are owned by: Tronox (Now Savannah Acid), Conoco Phillips Petroleum, Epic Midstream, Martin Marietta Aggregate, Georgia Pacific Gypsum, East Coast Terminal, Savannah Cement, and Liberty Terminals.
Downtown Savannah, with its Cobblestone River Street, is a popular tourist destination and quite beautiful to behold from the water. Landmarks, such as the Marriott and Hyatt Hotels, the Savannah Municipal Building with its gold dome, the buildings that once comprised the Cotton Exchange and “Factor’s Walk”, and the statue of the “Waving Girl” are worth pointing out. So too, are the buildings on Hutchinson Island – The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa and the Savannah International Trade Center. Not to be overlooked are the two fleets of tug boats (Moran and Crescent) that play such a vital role in shipping. Nor would our discussion be complete without mentioning future plans for development, including Savannah River Landings and the proposed changes on Hutchinson Island.
The real estate east of the Talmadge Bridge is actually owned by a number of players. The largest owner, the Georgia Ports Authority, owns and manages the two major terminals: Ocean Terminal and Garden City Terminal.
Ocean Terminal starts just before the Talmadge Bridge and contains break bulk and Roll/on-Roll/off facilities. The Garden City Terminal consists of eight piers, with numerous cranes to unload containers.
Between Ocean Terminal and Garden City Terminals are a number of businesses: National Gypsum, AXEON, Colonial Oil Industries, Savannah Yacht Center, and International Paper. Beyond the Garden City Terminal lie the sites of Imperial Sugar Refinery, Schilli Terminal, and International Paper – Pt. Wentworth Mill.
The large well in Ocean Terminal provided berth for the Georgia Responder – a vessel which has never been used for its intended purpose, which is to respond to large oil spills. The Responder has been redeployed to Louisiana, but the support barge with crew quarters and oil tank storage remains in the slip.
Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 275,968 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $10.8 billion in income, $35.4 billion in revenue and some $1.4 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy.
To keep the Savannah port growing, deepening of the harbor to 47 FMLW (feet mean low water) started in 2016 is well under way. But this project is not without impact on the environment. Numerous stakeholders have been meeting and guiding the extensive studies on this project since 1999. This is the most researched project the Corp of Engineers has ever conducted.
On the following pages we will take a closer look at each facility and try to get an appreciation for the interesting and important work that goes on each day in the Port of Savannah.