Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) in the US has started moving container freight by rail on newly installed track at the port of Savannah following a $128m investment into the Mason Mega Rail terminal project.

Megarail Georgia

Eighteen rail lines now connect Garden City terminal’s Chatham and Mason rail yards, effectively making one mega terminal, with the project now more than 75% complete.

According to the GPA, the additional track increases on-terminal storage capacity at Garden City by 35% and allows it to build more trains of nearly 10,000ft (3,040 metres) in length on terminal for both Class I railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern.

“When complete, Mason Mega Rail Terminal will not only double our rail lift capacity to 2m TEUs per year, it will increase our reach into the heartland with more frequent, direct service and unmatched reliability,” said GPA executive director Griff Lynch. “This expansion will also ensure the free flow of cargo across our terminal and beyond our gates as Savannah takes on more business.”

Container volumes at Savannah port reached an all-time high of 464,095 TEUs in October, up more than 35,700 compared to the same month last year (+8.3%).

Finished vehicle and equipment unit throughput was also up last month by 24%, with a total volume of 78,772 units moved through Brunswick port.

“To handle additional business, the GPA has repurposed berth 2 at Colonel’s Island in Brunswick to accommodate the largest ro-ro vessels calling the US east coast today,” Lynch said. “In addition, we have been awarded a permit by the US Army Corps of Engineers to add a fourth berth, which is currently in the planning stages.”

Lynch said thar while there is no guarantee container trade will continue to expand at the same rate, the port of Savannah has achieved incredible growth in the midst of a global pandemic.

“To have achieved all-time record volumes in two of the last three months is a tribute to the hard work and collaboration between GPA and our partners throughout the supply chain,” Lynch said. “The progress we have already made on the Mason Mega Rail has delivered significant capacity increases and will further assure Savannah’s role as the third busiest container gateway in the nation.”

Mason Mega Rail Terminal in numbers

  • Doubles the port of Savannah’s rail lift capacity to 1m containers per year
  • Adds 97,000ft (29,570 metres) of new rail at Garden City Terminal, for a total of 179,000ft (54,560 metres)
  • Norfolk Southern grows from 350,000 annual lift capacity to 500,000 by the end of 2019
  • CSX will grow from 225,000 annual lift capacity to 300,000 lift capacity in 2020, and to 500,000 by the end of 2021
  • Cuts transit time by 24 hours to inland markets such as Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati
  • Increases on-terminal storage capacity at Garden City by 35%