The Georgia Ports Authority marked 12.3% container volume growth in December 2016, moving 292,172 twenty-foot equivalent container units, an increase of 32,099 TEUs compared with December 2015—and a record for the GPA.

Roll-on/Roll-off cargo mirrored that growth, with a 12.3% gain (7,000 units) in passenger vehicles and heavy equipment handled at Colonel’s Island terminal in Brunswick and Ocean Terminal in Savannah. Georgia’s deepwater ports moved 63,967 Ro/Ro units in December.

GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch reports that several factors led to December’s record growth.

“Strategic proximity to major population and manufacturing sites, direct Interstate access and the most ocean carrier routes in the US Southeast are the competitive advantages drawing customers to our ports,” said Lynch.

In its effort to stay ahead of demand and accommodate future needs, the GPA broke ground in December on its new inland terminal in northwest Georgia—the Appalachian Regional Port. Port officials estimate the CSX rail route will reduce Atlanta truck traffic by 50,000 moves annually, and expand GPA’s target market in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. Each container moved by rail from the inland terminal will offset 355 truck miles on Georgia highways.

“GPA’s track record of operational excellence over the past decade more than prepares it to achieve great things at the Appalachian Regional Port,” said Jimmy Allgood, board chairman. “This is the next step in our transition, moving additional cargo to rail, allowing more capacity on our interstates, and extending GPA’s competitive benefits farther into the American heartland.”

Inland terminal construction is expected to take just under two years, with the start of operations at the ARP targeted for the third quarter of 2018.

Allgood said the new inland terminal will make goods manufactured within its service region more competitive in the global market, while reducing carbon emissions. The ARP’s savings potential has already resulted in companies locating and expanding in northwest Georgia to take advantage of the inland terminal’s future benefits.

In other business:

•The GPA board approved the purchase of new software to run gate, vessel and rail operations. The system currently in use at GPA has been retired by Navis and replaced by its N4 software. The software system will be phased in at GPA terminals over an 18-month period.

•The GPA marked its busiest year ever in loaded container traffic in 2016, moving 2.94 million twenty-foot equivalent container units, a gain of 71,083 TEUs over 2015. Total cargo across all terminals reached 31.22 million tons in 2016. Counting loaded and empty containers, the Port of Savannah moved 3.64 million TEUs in 2016.

For more information, see www.gaports.com.