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Brunswick facility on track to become nation's No. 1 auto port

POSTED: November 7, 2017 11:11 a.m.
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The Eukor vessel Morning Cara passes St. Simons Island in the Brunswick River channel. Colonel’s Island Terminal at the Port of Brunswick is served by nine ocean carriers and four on-terminal auto processors, handling cargo for more than 30 auto and heavy equipment manufacturers.

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At the annual State of the Port address hosted by the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce recently, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch said the GPA increased auto processing capacity at Colonel's Island Terminal by 50 percent over the past 12 months, all of which has been absorbed by processors and manufacturers.

"Since last year, we've been implementing an aggressive growth plan, enabling GPA and our auto processing partners to win new customers and capture greater market share," Lynch said.

The roll-on/roll-off terminal has expanded from 60,000 spaces in 2016 to 90,000 spaces today, for a total capacity of 800,000 cars per year. The additional space already has been absorbed by auto processors Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, Mercedes and International Auto Processors. The three port customers have increased their operations by a total of 200 acres on the island's south side, bringing auto processing space to 600 acres.

"Last year, we told you we would be implementing an infrastructure investment philosophy we've used at Savannah's container operation for years now," said GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood. "That philosophy is to maintain capacity above current demand. Investing for the future has enabled the GPA to take on new customers and handle greater than expected container growth without congestion or capacity worries. We anticipate the same benefits for the auto trade here in Brunswick."

Plans call for further expansion that will allow the GPA to move, process and store some 1.4 million vehicles annually. In FY2017, the GPA handled 607,000 units of Ro/Ro cargo in Brunswick.

"Growing our infrastructure will allow GPA to better serve the needs of auto processors and manufacturers as they rely more heavily on our terminal to meet customer demand," Lynch told chamber members assembled at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. "This investment puts the Colonel's Island facility on track to become the nation's No. 1 auto port."  

While the Port of Brunswick is already the single largest auto port in the country, GPA's combined ro/ro cargo for Savannah and Brunswick ranks as the nation's second-busiest operation. However, Georgia's deepwater auto ports have been adding volume faster than competitors. Over the past 10 years, GPA has led the nation with a growth rate of 8 percent – nearly four times the rate of the nearest competitor.

Lynch also informed the audience that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintenance dredging is expected to bring the Brunswick River to full authorized channel depth of 36 feet in 2018. He said $10.3 million in federal funding for maintenance dredging from FY17 will roll over into the current fiscal year, while the Administration's proposed budget includes another $4.5 million for FY2018.

"As the vessels serving the Port of Brunswick grow larger, it becomes more important for this port to receive sufficient federal dollars to maintain the channel at its full authorized depth," Lynch said. "We are happy to report that the upward trend in harbor maintenance funding appears to be continuing into the current fiscal year."

In other news, Lynch reported that East River Terminal, operated by Logistec, handled a diverse mix of bulk commodities totaling 912,106 tons. Commodities such as perlite grew by 12 percent (14,700 tons) to reach 135,250 tons; animal feed grew by 7.7 percent (4,800 tons) to reach 66,725 tons; and salt grew by 44 percent (17,425 tons) to reach 56,670 tons.

East River's largest commodity, wood pellets, experienced a dip of 11.7 percent (61,000) tons for a total of 461,114 tons in FY17. However, wood pellets are projected to reach 600,000 tons in the current fiscal year, an increase of 30 percent.

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