US DOT GIVES FUNDS TO GEORGIA INLAND PORT RAIL UPGRADES
The US Department of Transportation has awarded $6.2 million to upgrading part of tracks that connect the port of Savannah to Georgia’s first inland port, part of the broader $368 million in grants the agency awarded as part of a nationwide railroad investment program. The agency’s Freight Rail Administration doled out the funds as part of its Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Program (CRISI), the DOT said in a statement Thursday announcing the grants. CRISI covers 46 freight and passenger rail projects across 32 states. Among the recipients highlighted, the Georgia Department of Transport won a grant for upgrading 18 miles of rail line between Preston and Cordele. The track upgrades will allow for heavier and faster trains that connect to the Cordele Inland Port, the agency said.
The Maryland Port Administration also received a $15.6 million CRISI grant toward efforts aimed at expanding intermodal capacity at the Port of Baltimore.
NEW ASIA-EAST COAST SERVICE CALLS ON LEATHERMAN TERMINAL
A just-launched niche Asian service calling at the Port of Charleston’s new marine terminal brings not only more volumes to the port, but also highlights the underutilization of the first new container terminal built in the US since 2009 due to major carriers’ fears of getting caught up in ongoing litigation over labor used at the facility.Sea Lead’s service connecting Nansha, Ningbo, Qingdao, and Pusan with the US East Coast made its Charleston debut last weekend with the arrival of the Hakuna Matata at the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal. Hapag-Lloyd has been the only major container line to call on Leatherman in the past year, leaving the new
terminal only 50 percent utilized after the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) in April 2021 filed a lawsuit against the Hamburg-based carrier. Since then, only a few smaller charters have called at the terminal, which opened in March 2021.The lawsuit involves the ILA contesting that, per the master contract governing US East Coast longshore labor, union workers should have 100 percent of jobs at all new terminals in the southeast US. Although the National Labor Relations Board ruled against the ILA in 2021, the union immediately appealed. Sea Lead’s Asia East Coast (AEC) service, launched March 7 from Nansha, offering shippers a new trans-Pacific weekly service from Asia to Norfolk, the Port Newark Container Terminal in New Jersey, Charleston, and Jacksonville. Vessels carry 6,500 TEU on average.
FEDERAL GRANT TO BOOST BALTIMORE’S ON-DOCK RAIL CAPACITY
The Port of Baltimore has received a $15.6 million federal grant to fund new on-dock railroad tracks and lifting equipment, part of the port’s long-term plan to boost its intermodal reach.The Maryland Port Administration said Wednesday that the US Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded Baltimore the funding under its railroad modernization program. The grant will go toward the expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel, which will raise the height of the tunnel to allow the double stacking of containers on trains. The new FRA grant will go toward adding four on-dock rail tracks totaling 17,670 feet and two crane rail beams. The grant also includes a $6.7 million match to funding provided by Ports America
Chesapeake, which operates Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine terminal.The state of Maryland and CSX Transportation broke ground last year on raising the Howard Street Tunnel, with completion of the project expected in 2025. The project will cost $466 million, with the state spending about $200 million and CSX providing $113 million. In 2019, the Maryland Port Administration received a $125 million grant from the Department of Transportation’s INFRA program that will also go the project, which also entails improving overhead clearance and grade crossings at 21 locations along the tracks. Baltimore’s share of inland point intermodal cargo is relatively low at under 10 percent of total volume, but the tunnel project aims to raise that. Once completed, the project will allow CSX to haul 160,000 more containers per year from Baltimore to the Midwest.
SAVANNAH BERTH WORK CAUSES VESSEL BACKLOG TO SWELL
More than 20 vessels are anchored outside Savannah this week after recent construction work took a second berth out of commission, and the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) says strong import volumes en route to the port could keep the backlog elevated through June.Delays began to build after the multi-year rehabilitation project to expand the already-idled Berth 1
required closing Berth 2 for one week, shutting two of the port’s seven berths between May 16-23. It’s the first major buildup of vessels outside Savannah since last fall when 30 vessels anchored outside the harbor. The Port of New York and New Jersey also had 20 vessels anchored outside its harbor as of Wednesday. The Port of Virginia has less than five vessels anchored after sitting between seven and 15 vessels consistently between February and mid- May. The Port of Charleston has three vessels anchored outside its harbor, a significant turnaround from the gridlock of three months ago.
Anchored vessels will remain elevated in June –
The volume of containers now on the water destined for savannah means the number of anchored vessels will remain in the teens through june, gpa is better prepared to handle the situation now than it was last fall. When there were about 80,000 containers in Savannah last September and the Garden City Terminal was above 80 percent utilization, the GPA was forced to slow how quickly it discharged vessels because it was running low on space. GPA can now handle about 93,000 containers.