Posted: Monday, July 30th 2012 at 3:32pm
Savannah River deepening connects with our area
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE – Whether or not the Savannah River is deepened another five feet may not necessarily be the first topic discussed over lunch in our part of the state, but according to Lee Beckmann, Manager of Legislative Affairs for the Georgia Port Authority, the vitality of the Port of Savannah has a big impact on our area.
Beckmann was the guest speaker at the Gainesville Rotary Club’s lunchtime meeting on Monday.
And judging by the number of questions posed to him following his presentation on the impact of Georgia’s Garden City Terminal, which is located several miles up the Savannah River and just west of the Savannah historic district, the topic of the pending dredge operation did get the attention of many Rotarians and probably will become part of the lunch hour conversation in the days ahead.
Beckmann explained that the ports of Georgia (primarily Savannah, but Brunswick to a lesser degree) account for over 352,000 jobs statewide and $2.5 billion annually in local and state taxes.
It was when Beckmann said that among the items heading the list of exports shipped from Savannah were eggs and poultry that everyone took notice. "We move 38 and-a-half percent of the nation’s poultry exports through there," Beckmann said.
But our state also exports large quantities of pine products and, believe it or not, red Georgia clay around the world. Those two items are very heavy commodities and because of their bulk the gross tonnage of exports exceeds the gross tonnage of the items imported.
And that is where the depth of the Savannah River, connecting the Garden City Terminal with the Atlantic Ocean, becomes critical.
Ships taking Georgia products to the world weigh more than the ships bringing items into port. And because of the river's depth (or lack thereof) there are occasions when outbound Georgia products cannot be loaded onto a departing ship due to weight restrictions.
Despite the fact that the Port of Savannah is the nation's fastest growing port of entry, Beckmann explained that almost 70 percent of the ships that enter the port are on time-sensitive constraints. That is, they rely upon the bi-daily high tides in order to safety float their loads from the Garden City Terminal.
And with the trend towards bigger and bigger vessels, "…if they can't accommodate the world's largest ships, the world's largest ships are going to go elsewhere."
The process to have the river's deepening approved is both time consuming and tedious, Beckmann explained, so the fact that earlier this month President Barack Obama added it to his "We Can’t Wait" list of infrastructural projects was hugely encouraging.
Looking forward Beckmann speculated with the President's desire to have all approvals in place by November of this year, "We can get this done by 2016 provided we get full funding."
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