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Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 11:51am

Port Of Savannah Rises In Exports

Georgia ports officials say, Savannah is now the second-busiest port in the US for exports.

The ranking highlighted this year's State of the Port address in Savannah Thursday.

Overall volume at the Port of Savannah has passed its pre-Recession high, for the first time showing a gain on 2008 numbers.

The port is still fourth overall but rose to second in exports, behind only Los Angeles.

Georgia Ports Authority Director Curtis Foltz says, rising exports present a greater need for deepening the Savannah harbor.

"The exports are a greater driver of our deepening need than the imports, although both are important," Foltz says. "Ships generally leave Savannah deeper than they arrive."

Right now, the world's largest ships can only come to the Port of Savannah with tide restrictions or not fully loaded, both costly to shippers and a competitive disadvantage to Savannah.

"Heavier cargo translates into deeper draft ships," Foltz says. "Deeper draft ships translate into the need to have more water in our harbor."

Foltz says, thinking about the deepening project makes his blood pressure boil.

He originally hoped the deepening would be accomplished by the 2014 expansion of the Panama Canal, but it now could be finished by 2016 or later, depending on constantly-shifting timelines.

The approximately $588 million project is still waiting on final approval from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and -- even more critical and daunting -- Congressional appropriations that could total approximately $400 million.

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