We recently celebrated the rescue of 24 crew members aboard the Golden Ray container ship that capsized just outside the Brunswick Port. The Coast Guards heroic efforts returned the crew to safety including a man that had been trapped behind glass for 40 hours! The last four crew members had been in pitch dark broiling conditions. There are not enough words to express the gratitude we all must have for the efforts made by the Coast Guard. John Reed, the commander of the Coast Guard Sector Charleston referred to it as the best day of his career. “A Pure Miracle” is how Senior Chef Petty Officer Justin Irwin described the rescue operation. While the rescue is cause for celebration now it is time to deal with the issues a capsized ship presents.
The Golden Ray is a 650 feet Long, 71,000-ton cargo ship with 300,000 gallons of oil and 4,200 cars on board. The hope is to remove the ship in one piece with as little damage to the environment as possible. The U.S. Coast Guard is leading the efforts and have several agencies working along side of them. Gallagher Marine Systems has been hired by the owners of the Golden Ray. The first order of business is containing oil leaks. According to Commander Norm Will of the Marine Safety Unit in Savannah they have identified and sealed off three submerged fuel vents. They are contemplating removing oil from some of the fuel tanks as well. Official have created a safety zone a half-mile radius around the ship and placed 1,200 feet of floating plastic that is designed to contain oil. Another 3,100 feet of boom was placed along Bird Island. Unfortunately, there has been some sheening reported there. They are doing an amazing job in their efforts; however this is not a perfect science. High tides can cause water to flow over the boom, carrying oil with it. In addition to the booms officials are using skimmers to remove the oil from water as needed. The clean up could potentially take months to complete.
While the clean up is taking place the questions about the cause are being pondered. There are not many options to consider and as of yet no answers to prevent future incidents. They have considered water intake or weight distribution issues and eliminated both as factor. For the 24 crew members this ordeal is thankfully over, and their rescue remains the focus for most of us. The clean up crews, coast guard and environmental agencies have just started to deal with the aftermath.
The Georgia Port Authority has a great deal to be proud of and they shared this with us at the Annual State of the Port Address on Sept. 12th. In true Savannah fashion, the event started with a networking event in the morning. We drank coffee and shook hands with our teams, our customers and our competitors. When we settled into our tables the program began with the pledge allegiance and a blessing. Every speaker, including Governor Deal made mention of the miracle rescue that took place in Brunswick and took a moment to recognize the tragic events of Sept. 11, honoring our promise to never forget.
After recognizing our public officials in house, GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch dove into the facts and figures for the last fiscal year.
We are now 3rd in the nation for T.E.U. (twenty-foot equivalent Unit) volume giving us a 21% market share. This is 25% increase over 2018 and we are +6.4% for the last 10 years. The GPA plans to double the Garden City Terminal’s annual capacity from 5.5 million to 11 million TEUS. This expansion will include a new container port on Hutchinson Island and will aide us in keeping up with the container trade.
The Inner harbor phase of the river deepening is starting now, thanks in part to 100 million dollars allocated by the federal government. They brought up an interesting point about larger ship coming to the area. We will likely need to raise the bridge or provide an alternative.
The Port is developing dual rail service from the Port of Savannah to Chicago, reducing the duration of the trip to 3 days. We are closer to Chicago than the West Coast ports, however further by ship for most exporters. By reducing the train time, we equal or beat the time it will take to get product from Chicago.
In 2019 developers added 10.75 million square feet of industrial space, totally 67.7 million square feet. Even with the 19 percent increase the vacancy was only 1.47 percent. We have 20,000 acres available for development in a 30-mile radius of port.
A 1.5 million sq. ft facility to develop resins opens in October.
Over 30,000 jobs and $7.5 billion in new projects and business expansions happened in the last year. 12,500 jobs and $5 billion in investment were port related.
The GPA rolled out a new program to hire high school graduates and give them logistics training. This year they have 6 students in the program.
New cranes are being built for the port for the first time in the Untied States. A company in Florida will be providing the cranes.
15 new refer racks and Gate 18 are all complete now.
The Appalachian Regional Port that the GPA opened will soon be hosting a new plant from General Electric 2020
The GPA attributes much of their success in the way they treat small businesses. They believe that by treating every small business with the same exemplary service that big business receive they will continue to grow. They also mentioned teamwork as a part of their model for success. Georgia has a spirit of working together to compete nationally rather than internally. Georgia will continue to see growth and keep reaching for more.