The CMA CGM Marco Polo, the largest ship ever to call at the Port of Savannah, arrived May 26. Photo credit: Savannah Morning News

ATLANTA – The Port of Savannah is experiencing strong year-over-year growth despite the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Savannah handled 478,620 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containerized cargo last month, an increase of 41.9% over May of last year, making it the second-busiest month in its history. The port has posted 10 consecutive months of positive year-over-year growth.

The strong numbers came as a surprise to officials at the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA).

“Last year, at this time, we were uncertain of the road ahead and expecting a double-digit loss in business,” said Will McKnight, the authority’s board chairman.

“To see how the GPA team and our supply chain partners have turned things around to achieve a string of the most successful months ever speaks volumes for this world-class workforce.”

With one month remaining in fiscal 2021, the Port of Savannah is on pace to surpass 5 million TEUs for the first time.

Total cargo crossing all GPA docks reached 3.8 million tons last month, up 26 percent. Rail volumes for the month grew 28 percent to a total of 54,436 containers.

A factor in the Port of Savannah’s growth is that increasingly large container ships are calling at the port’s Garden City Terminal. Two weeks ago, the port welcomed the largest vessel ever to call at Savannah, the CMA CGM Marco Polo.

“We believe managing the new cargo that’s coming our way benefits the economy, jumpstarts economic development and sustains long-term growth,” said Griff Lynch, the authority’s executive director.

To keep pace with the growth, the GPA has accelerated its hiring efforts by adding nearly 150 employees since January.

Strong growth also is occurring at the Port of Brunswick, which slumped during the pandemic because of the economic hit the auto industry took. The authority’s trade in vehicles and machinery units soared by 347% in May to 62,873 units.

“We expect strong growth to continue in autos and machinery as manufacturers return to normal operations,” Lynch said.