The Port of Savannah, the nation’s fourth-busiest container port, handled 11 percent more containers of imports and exports in the fiscal year that ended June 30 than it did in the previous year, said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.
The new record container volume set in fiscal 2011 beats the Savannah port’s previous peak from 2008 by about 240,000 containers.
Foltz said several factors contributed to the Savannah port’s best year. Georgia’s exports to countries such as China, India and Russia increased, he said, while retailers imported more goods through Savannah to meet higher consumer demand in the first half of the fiscal year.
The Savannah port’s market share, about 18.7 percent of East Coast freight, also continued to grow.
However, Foltz told the Georgia Ports Authority’s board Monday not to expect nearly such spectacular growth in the coming year.
“We will grow,” Foltz said. “But we are forecasting it to be fairly modest growth in fiscal 2012.”
He said high unemployment and the continuing housing slump are affecting global trade markets and have retailers looking to scale back their inventories, an about-face from what the port saw a year ago.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s port in Brunswick was also reporting a banner fiscal year in 2011.
Automobiles and machinery moved through Brunswick at a record volume of 465,341 units, an increase of 40 percent from the previous year. Wood pulp and other break-bulk cargo were up nearly 35 percent in Brunswick, at 170,309 tons.
The number of ships calling on both ports also increased in the past 12 months. Savannah reported 2,344 ships calling on its port — up 10.5 percent from fiscal 2011 while Brunswick saw 509 ships, an increase of 18 percent.
Gov. Nathan Deal applauded the ports’ 2011 performance.
“The Georgia Ports Authority’s double-digit growth is significant for our state in a recovering economy because it creates additional jobs,” Deal said in a statement.
Officials say the ports support more than 295,000 jobs and add $15.5 billion in income to Georgia’s economy.