The US port of Brunswick is aiming to become the country’s leading port for the import and export of finished vehicles and rolling machinery, according to Georgia Ports Authority (GPA). That is based on an investment of $262m in infrastructure in fiscal year 2023 and the allocation of a further 106 hectares (264 acres) of land for development on top of its existing 688 hectares.

GPA Brunswick Colonel's Island terminal

Brunswick port’s Colonel’s Island terminal has seen an 18% increase in the volume of vehicles and units of heavy machinery processed

In 2022 Brunswick and its neighbour Savannah port handled just over 651,500 finished vehicles, second only to the port of Baltimore, which was the busiest port for finished vehicle handling in the US again last year (758,000). 

This year Brunswick has increased volumes. According to GPA president and CEO Griff Lynch, who recently addressed the State of the Port annual event in Brunswick, the Colonel’s Island terminal at the port saw an 18% increase in the volume of vehicles and units of heavy machinery processed, equal to 705,000 units. Combined with vehicle and machinery units handled at Savannah, which is primarily a container port, the figure came to just over 723,500 units. 

According to the GPA, Brunswick served 610 vessel calls in fiscal year 2023, representing an increase of 11% over the year prior and Colonel’s Island handled 495 of those vessels.

The GPA has a strategy in place to focus all ro-ro cargo at the Colonel’s Island terminal while the port of Savannah concentrates on containerised trade, according to Lynch. This year GPA will have expanded annual vehicle capacity at the Colonel’s Island terminal to 1.4m units.

“By concentrating on containers in Savannah, and autos and machinery in Brunswick, we are able to streamline our operations and provide a more efficient service to both of our main business sectors as cargo volumes continue to grow,” Lynch said.

The Colonel’s Island terminal provides services for 23 carmakers and 17 heavy machinery makers. In terms of carmakers, the top five are Mercedes, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and GM. The top machinery equipment makers using the terminal are Hyundai, John Deere, Caterpillar, Wirtgen and Hamm.

Griff Lynch presentation

GPA president and CEO Griff Lynch recently addressed the State of the Port annual event 

Infrastructure improvements
To handle the increase in volumes Brunswick is investing $262m in infrastructure improvements that includes construction of a 32,500 sq.m warehouse near the dock at the Colonel’s Island terminal. That construction is underway. In addition, GPA is adding three buildings over a 27,000 sq.m footprint and around 50 hectares of ro-ro cargo storage space, which are also under construction on the south side of the island.

GPA has also received Federal approval for a fourth ro-ro berth at the terminal, to enable more vessel calls. The authority said that was currently in the engineering phase and will more efficiently accommodate vessels that can carry up to 7,000 vehicles. Dredging and channel widening is underway in the Brunswick shipping channel and there is an expansion of the turning basin at Colonel’s Island.

In addition, construction on a new railyard on the south of Colonel’s Island will begin next year.

Mexico trade
In a press release GPA said it was “focused on the growing market opportunity of global automotive manufacturers and OEMs moving production to Mexico”.

Global shipping company CMA-CGM started a new short-sea service carrying vehicles from Mexico to the port of Brunswick in July this year and freight forwarder Gold Star will start a Mexico/Brunswick route in November.

Learn about how Mexico’s vehicle import and export flows are evolving, and how existing and new players are securing capacity at this year’s Automotive Logistics and Supply Chain Mexico conference, which takes place between December 5-7

“Brunswick’s gateway port model features four on-site auto processors, room for customers to grow their business with three available parcels of land totalling 264 acres and direct access to Interstate 95 for car carrier and machinery trucks,” said Kent Fountain, GPA board chairman.

GPA is also investing in increasing its breakbulk throughput at the Mayor’s Point terminal. That includes a 9,300 sq.m warehouse with flooring upgrades to handle heavy cargoes, replacing an older 4,600 sq.m facility.