The Port of Brunswick is poised to become the top auto and machinery port in the U.S., with 264 acres of land for development according to Georgia Ports Authority President and CEO Griff Lynch.
Addressing the State of the Port annual event, hosted by the Brunswick Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Lynch said
“Organic growth, a steady pipeline of new customers and the ability to take on new trade will boost Brunswick’s Roll-on/Roll-off volumes, which are already expanding at a strong rate. To accommodate anticipated market demand, GPA has initiated an aggressive infrastructure plan, strengthening Colonel’s Island for auto and machinery processing.”
In fiscal year 2023, Colonel’s Island Terminal in Brunswick grew Ro/Ro volumes by 18 percent, to more than 705,000 units of autos and heavy machinery, moving both into and out of the port. (Including Ocean Terminal in Savannah’s Ro/Ro volumes, GPA handled a record 723,515 units during this time period.) The Port of Brunswick served 610 vessel calls in FY2023, representing an increase of 11 percent over the year prior. Colonel’s Island handled 495 of those ships.
GPA Board Chairman Kent Fountain said Brunswick has room to grow as automakers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) move greater volumes through Georgia. “At 1,700 acres, Brunswick is the nation’s premier gateway for auto and Ro/Ro cargo,” Fountain said. “Brunswick’s gateway port model features four on-site auto processors, room for customers to grow their business with three available parcels of land totaling 264 acres and direct access to Interstate 95 for car carrier and machinery trucks. With on-terminal rail, Brunswick offers the fastest East Coast rail connections to inland markets.” The port also features a new fumigation facility onsite which is the largest facility of its size for autos and machinery. (Fumigation is required for cars and machinery shipped to Australia and New Zealand).
Brunswick Expanding Capabilities
To accommodate growing volumes, the Port of Brunswick is undergoing improvements totaling more than $262 million. Construction has recently been completed on 350,000 square feet of near-dock warehousing that serves auto and machinery processing on the north side of Colonel’s Island Terminal. Three additional buildings representing 290,000 square feet and 122 acres of Roll-on/Roll-off cargo storage space are under construction on the south side of the island.
GPA has also won Federal approval for a fourth Ro/Ro berth at Colonel’s Island, to enable more vessel calls. Currently in the engineering phase, this project will more efficiently accommodate vessels that can carry up to 7,000 vehicles.
A planned new railyard on the Southside of Colonel’s Island will enter the construction phase next year. This rail capacity improvement will extend Brunswick’s reach deeper into interior markets to capture more business.
Federally funded maintenance dredging is ongoing in the Brunswick River shipping channel. Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is awaiting funding for a project to enhance the efficiency of vessel transit by widening the channel and expansion of the turning basin at Colonel’s Island.
Source shifting and short sea shipping creates new volumes
Georgia Ports is focused on the growing market opportunity of global automotive manufacturers and OEMs moving production to Mexico. This trend coupled with ocean carriers adding more services into Mexico ports with main haul and short sea services is tied to sourcing shifts which will add more auto volumes into the Port of Brunswick’s national gateway for distribution throughout the U.S. CMA-CGM started a new short-sea service carrying vehicles from Mexico to the Port of Brunswick in July, and Gold Star starts a Mexico/Brunswick route in November.
Lynch said the Port of Brunswick is part of a two-pillar strategy at GPA to “specialize and scale operations for customers,” with Colonel’s Island Terminal handling all future Roll-on/Roll-off cargo while the Port of Savannah concentrates on containerized trade. The Georgia Ports Authority is renovating Ocean Terminal in Savannah to serve as an all-container facility. The portion of GPA’s Ro/Ro cargo previously handled at Ocean Terminal, is being shifted to Colonel’s Island. “By concentrating on containers in Savannah and autos and machinery in Brunswick, we are able to streamline our operations and provide more efficient service to both of our main business sectors as cargo volumes continue to grow,” Lynch said.
Colonel’s Island trade
- 23 carmakers and 17 heavy machinery producers move cargo through the Port of Brunswick.
- The top five automakers by volume in FY2023 were Mercedes, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and GM.
- The top five heavy machinery producers by volume were Hyundai, John Deere, Caterpillar, Wirtgen and Hamm.
- In FY2023, Colonel’s Island handled 705,303 units (vehicles, heavy machinery, boats, static machinery, etc.), of which 75 percent was import, 25 percent export.
- Auto processors onsite in the Port of Brunswick perform services such as pre-delivery inspections, quality checks and remedial actions, as well as installation of accessories prior to delivery.
Infrastructure upgrades to Mayor’s Point Terminal breakbulk facility
Investments to support increasing breakbulk trade at Mayor’s Point Terminal in the Port of Brunswick include a new, 100,000 square-foot warehouse with up-to-date life safety improvements and flooring upgrades to handle heavy cargoes. The building replaces an older, 50,000 square-foot structure. GPA has also upgraded the fender system on the docks to better serve larger vessels now calling the terminal. New and existing customers are already benefiting from the improvements. The facility handles forest products such as woodpulp, paper and paperboard, as well as raw rubber.