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Full Court Press Behind the Savannah River Expansion Project

Mike Klein

Here’s something you might not know about the Savannah River and Harbor expansion project.  Georgia sturgeon living about 130 miles up the river would get a new bypass to their spawning grounds.  In fact, $225 million or about one-third of total cost has been allocated to environmental mitigation, including the purchase and permanent preservation of some 2,000 shoreline acres.

Dredging the Savannah River and harbor to 48 feet from its current 42-foot depth might be Georgia’s most significant economic development project since Atlanta was rebuilt after the Civil War or, perhaps more realistically,  the development of Atlanta’s international airport.   It is almost impossible to overstate the critical nature of this $625 million venture.  With an improved river and harbor, Georgia remains on the world stage.  Without it, well, you really don’t want to think about that.

There was a full court press behind SHEP – the Savannah River and Harbor Expansion project – on Wednesday at the fourth annual Georgia Logistics Summit in Atlanta.  Governor Nathan Deal told 1,500 conference guests that federal decisions are close-at-hand, probably this summer.  “We are doing everything in our power to move that project forward,” Deal said during his summit opening address.

Savannah is the world’s shallowest major port.  It is unable to accommodate larger international tankers that will begin to transit the Panama Canal in 2014.  “Deeper than you are today is important,” morning keynote speaker Curtis Spencer told reporters during an informal roundtable.   Spencer is President and CEO of IMS Worldwide, Texas-based consultants in worldwide shipping logistics.

Georgia Ports Authority Terminal in Savannah

Despite Savannah’s current depth – again, shallowest major port in the world – it is wildly successful.  Industry data shows the Savannah Garden City Terminal is the fourth busiest and fastest growing port in the nation during the past decade.  Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York – New Jersey are the busiest ports.   The Charleston, South Carolina port was tenth busiest during between 2005 and 2011.

Larger ships will dwarf today’s supertankers that currently travel up the Savannah River.  They will be longer, taller and their width will nearly double.   “Ships aren’t going to change to accommodate us,” Georgia Ports Authority executive director Curtis Foltz said during his luncheon keynote address.  “That’s why it’s so important that we get this project done as quickly as possible.”

Seventy percent of the U.S. population lives in the eastern one-third of the country with 44 percent living in the Southeast.  “That’s our back yard, “Foltz said.  “That’s what our ports are built to service.” Some 62 percent of all import and export trade from Savannah is with Asia.

Congress approved a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers harbor deepening study way back in 1999.  It took ten years to complete the study and now another two years for other federal officials to analyze the findings.  Contrast that with Panama which started the Canal expansion project in 2006 and will complete all work before 2014.  Georgia hopes the federal approval and funding process would enable work to begin next year.

The federal government and Georgia would share Savannah improvement costs in a 60 – 40 split.  Georgia previously committed $134 million and Governor Deal included $47 million in new bonds in his next budget.  The project includes $400 million to dredge and $225 million for environmental mitigation.  The entire cost was estimated at about $250 million when this conversation began back in 1999.

Governor Deal said some 21,000 U.S. businesses ship through Savannah each year and three-fourths of those businesses are headquartered outside Georgia.  The Governor said a deeper Savannah River and Harbor could save businesses up to $100 million per year over other their next best trade route options.

Georgia’s fourth annual logistics summit attracted 1,500 guests from 28 states and seven countries to the World Congress Center in Atlanta.  The summit is tag-teaming this year with MODEX, the gigantic logistics industry trade show that opened Monday.  Governor Deal announced that the state’s new comprehensive freight plan is complete and will be released later this month.

Deal also lobbied for passage of this summer’s TSPLOST vote that could unleash billions of dollars for local transportation projects, including some that would affect freight logistics.  Voters in twelve regions statewide will vote thumbs up or down in July.  The state business sector is solidly behind the TSPLOST and it is prepared to spend millions of dollars advocating passage.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)  

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Georgia Public – Private Partners Launch Internet Shipping Marketplace

Mike Klein

The next big thing in logistics (that means moving stuff from one place to another) might already have happened right here in Georgia.  Georgiafreight.com is a coordinated marketplace of transportation options for moving anything from here to there or almost anywhere.

It exists entirely on the Internet, it’s easy to use (even I was able to understand it) and here’s the best news yet, it comes with a whole bunch of built-in discounts. You can get discounts for being a Georgia company and for shipping from one Georgia address to another.

Georgiafreight.com is a project of Efreightsolutions, a private company, but it was hatched with lots of assistance from the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics which is headquartered on the Georgia Tech campus in Savannah.  It received a big boost forward from Kennesaw State University president Dan Papp who connected Efreightsolutions and the Innovations Center.

“It’s an online freight portal and there are lots of them out there, but what was lacking was a focus on Georgia,” said Page Siplon, director of the state’s Center of Innovation for Logistics.  This online model provides several tiers of service and lots of options for moving product by air, rail, truck or water.  Siplon said the model could soon be expanded to California and New York.

The Georgiafreight.com story will be center stage when the 2011 Georgia Logistics Summit convenes over two days next week at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta.  But the company’s ability to help industries move products will be just one reason that it makes headlines.

Using its own private funds, Georgiafreight.com will make program awards to five Georgia universities that offer logistics education.  Siplon said the company will also announce an inaugural Logistics and Community Leadership Award to a person (or persons) for work within the industry and dedication to foster care programs.  University and personal award recipients will be honored during Monday evening’s reception at the Cobb Galleria Centre.

Page Siplon

Next Tuesday’s daylong third annual Georgia Logistics Summit is rapidly becoming a must-attend event for private industry and public stakeholders.  Siplon launched the event as a 2009 luncheon and 450 attended.  “We knew we were onto something,” Siplon said.  Last year it moved to the Cobb Galleria and attendance doubled.  Some 1,200 are registered for Tuesday.

The entire reason the conference exists is to explain how Georgia can move products.  “It’s a complicated industry so when you say logistics, a lot of things come to mind,” Siplon said.  “What was lacking was a place where all those people could get together and talk.”

Tuesday scheduled keynote speakers include Jack Wells, chief economist for the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Wells will meet with Georgia Ports Authority executives on Monday in Savannah before his conference address on Tuesday in Atlanta.

The Savannah River and harbor deepening project remains the biggest elephant in the room. Georgia needs to dredge the river from its current 42-foot depth to 48 feet to accommodate larger ships that will begin to navigate the new Panama Canal in three years.  Project cost is estimated at $500-to-$600 million, to be shared between Georgia and the federal government.

Georgia has already committed its share of about 25 percent, but Washington has not followed suit.  “Yes, that is probably the most visible project because it affects so many things,” Siplon said.  “It is a project we are going to have to fund one way or another.  Georgia is at the crossroads of global commerce.  We shouldn’t have to beg for resources to do that.”

Here is a video about the economic impact of the Georgia ports in Savannah and Brunswick.

Tuesday’s conference will include breakout sessions on air freight, agribusiness, energy, life sciences, manufacturing and ocean freight.  Other scheduled speakers include Governor Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Georgia Ports Authority executive director Curtis Foltz, state economic development commissioner Chris Cummiskey, state transportation commissioner Vance Smith and logistics industry executives.

Click here to learn more about the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

May 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment