Brunswick and Savannah
A state of knowns and unknowns
Brunswick and Savannah ports in the US state of Georgia managed to increase vehicle handling in 2019, with the fastest growing markets for exports and imports in Asia and Australasia. Working with its terminal operators, Georgia Ports Authority has been supporting that growth by investing in expansion
Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) oversees activity at the ports of Brunswick and Savannah, which combined represent the second busiest vehicle handling terminal in the US. Situated in the southeastern US, the port’s four terminal operators – BMW NA, IAP, Mercedes-Benz USA, WW Solutions VSA – process imports and exports for 20-plus carmakers or brands, with some of the biggest including BMW, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and VW.
In 2019 GPA added 16 hectares (40 acres) of dedicated ro-ro space at Brunswick port’s Colonel’s Island Terminal (on which three of the terminal operators are based). The additional dock space increased the car storage area at the vehicle terminal by 6,000 spaces and included the addition of 14,100 feet (4,300 metres) of rail track. The installation of rail infrastructure will allow Brunswick to expand its service in markets west of the Mississippi River and into the US Midwest.
In financial year 2019, more than 110,000 vehicles were transported to inland markets from Brunswick by rail. Colonel’s Island Terminal has links to the hinterland via the Golden Isles Terminal Railroad, which interchanges with Class 1 rail providers CSX and Norfolk Southern.
The port has also benefited from a nine-acre staging area for high-and-heavy equipment. In addition, approximately 15 extra acres has been secured near the vessel berths and for the auto processors.
“The benefit will be speedier vessel processing, especially for those customers whose auto processing lots are on the south end of Colonel’s Island Terminal,” says GPA’s spokesperson.
Throughput at Brunswick and Savannah 2019
A further 61-acres of land was found for ro-ro cargo at Brunswick port last year when the agricultural bulk terminal was removed and repaved. GPA has also added a second access road between the docks and the island’s south side.
“This provides a more direct route to existing auto processing lots and new development on the south end of the terminal,” says the spokesperson. “A cross-terminal road links the three vessel berths.”
Finally, GPA has the permits to build a fourth vessel berth to support expansion onto 400-plus acres on the south side of the island that are already have the go-ahead for development.
Last year exports to Australia and New Zealand, (from Savannah), and China (from Brunswick), plus imports from South Korea (to Brunswick) were the fastest growing markets.
The biggest markets for the port were found in exports to Europe from Brunswick and imports to Brunswick from South Korea. Imports to Brunswick from the UK also formed a big portion of the business for Brunswick and Savannah.
The newest trade lane from Colonel’s Island Terminal has been Kia Telluride exports to the Middle East, the first of which were loaded at the end of February last year. On delivery to the terminal from Kia Motor Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) in West Point, International Auto Processing inspects the vehicles, washing them and applying wrap guard, as well as installing tow hooks and adjusting tyre pressure, among other services. Ocean carrier Glovis is transporting the vehicles to the Middle East.
In November last year Kia celebrated ten years of manufacturing in Georgia, where it makes popular SUV models, including the Telluride and Sorento, as well as the Optima mid-size sedan. Kia Motors plans to increase its annual production target for the Telluride to 80,000 units from the current 60,000, which promises more business for Brunswick.
Also last year, the Savannah Ocean Terminal picked up trade from GM and Volvo, with both carmakers exporting vehicles to Australia and New Zealand. Volvo is also using Brunswick to export cars to South American markets.
Accommodating JLR demand
In November last year British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) relocated to a larger, renovated vehicle processing centre (VPC) in Brunswick to cater for increasing demand for its vehicles in the US.
“The North America market is approximately 20% of JLR global sales and since 2012 [the company] has enjoyed consecutive years of growth in the market,” a spokesperson for JLR told Finished Vehicle Logistics. “In 2018, with a fourth consecutive year of growth, Land Rover in the US was the fastest growing brand in the industry.”
Previously JLR was split across two separate processing facilities, but at the new facility all processing work, pre-delivery inspections (PDIs), accessory installation, software upgrades and mechanical repairs take place in one area.
The carmaker said the larger renovated facility had increased the potential number of cars that can be processed daily.
The expanded VPC has been built by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Solutions (WW Solutions), the part of Norwegian shipping group Wallenius Wilhelmsen that provides terminal processing and other logistics services to manufacturers of cars, trucks and heavy equipment.
Matt Henderson, general manager, WW Solutions Brunswick, said: “The increase in processing area by 35%, which also offers additional lifts and bays, will allow us to increase the number of JLR vehicles in the PDI process.”
Alongside the OEM’s processing centre, WW Solutions is also constructing a 650 sq.m warehouse for storage of JLR parts and support its growing accessory business.
JLR’s move into a larger VPC also allows WW Solutions to accommodate growth for other customers. The company currently has seven automotive clients at Brunswick which import into the US’ southeastern markets.
As with the majority of North American ports, Brunswick and Savannah were hit with a decline in vehicle numbers through March, April and May this year because of the impact of the coronavirus. GPA saw volumes decline 24% equal to 38,879 vehicles across the three months, and combined imports and exports at both terminals amounted to just under 121,000.
Nevertheless, the port authority and its resident terminal operators kept vehicles moving through and instituted ‘isolate and operate’ protocols for its staff so it could do so.
The port’s spokesperson says it is difficult to forecast how total ro-ro volumes for 2020 will be affected by the drop in vehicle numbers caused by Covid-19 because there remain “too many unknowns”.
“Once the automakers and high-and-heavy cargo plants are up and operating, a major question will be whether the public will start buying new vehicles, lean toward used vehicles or simply keep the one they own,” says the spokesperson. “There is also concern about the venders being able to supply the parts to make the vehicles and the liquidly of companies to stay in business.”
What is more, the GPA’s plans to add capacity have not been deterred and it says it is maintaining a long-term view on infrastructure development.
At the Port of Brunswick, a series of infrastructure projects will increase capacity and provide new opportunities in ro-ro cargo handling, according to GPA. Added to that, the official launch of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in July this year promises to add traffic.
“Creating a more level playing field will allow the state to expand its commerce with the member nations,” says GPA’s spokesperson. Increased trade in North America will create opportunities throughout the supply chain, including the potential for new shipping services between the countries.
Over the past couple of years 326 hectares (806 acres) have been added specifically for vehicle processing and a further 144 hectares (355 acres) have been handed over by the US Army Corps of Engineers for development.
The port has also purchased 58.6 hectares (145 acres) contiguous to the port of Savannah, equal to storing 1m 20-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) in annual capacity. Savannah’s Ocean Terminal will be partially converted to handle containers. Construction is currently under way on the upgrades. Phase I of the Ocean Terminal container yard is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
Loss of the Golden Ray
Hyundai Glovis’ car carrier Golden Ray capsized outside the US port of Brunswick on September 8, 2019 with around 4,300 vehicles onboard, including the Kia Telluride. It was deliberately grounded in St. Simons Sound.
The 200-metre car carrier had left the port’s Colonel’s Island vehicle terminal early Sunday morning on route to Baltimore as part of a rotation from Mexico to the Middle East.
The effects of fire, saltwater corrosion, and salvage costs, led to the Golden Ray being declared a total loss in October 2019 and it was announced that the ship would be cut up in place and scrapped.
Work on the cutting up of the vessel began in February 2020 but that will not begin until mid-July this year and is expected to take eight weeks to complete.
Number of vehicles BMW Group has sold in Mexico in the past 25 years
Once the automakers and high and heavy cargo plants are up and operating, a major question will be whether the public will start buying new vehicles, lean toward used vehicles or simply keep the one they own
Spokesperson for GPA
The North America market is approximately 20% of JLR global sales and since 2012 [the company] has enjoyed consecutive years of growth in the market
Spokesperson for Jaguar Land Rover
Creating a more level playing field will allow the state to expand its commerce with the member nations. Increased trade in North America will create opportunities throughout the supply chain, including the potential for new shipping services between the countries
Spokesperson for GPA
Early in the Covid-19 crisis, the GPA instituted its ‘isolate and operate’ protocols so that it could keep cargo moving through its terminals
Spokesperson for GPA