Officials at the Port of Savannah cut the ribbon Friday on the Mason Mega Rail Terminal, a project that will immediately increase rail capacity to and from the port by more than 30%.

Mason Mega Rail Terminal, Port of Savannah

A first set of nine new rail tracks at the $218 million project opened for business last year, and the other nine tracks are now operating.

This story also appeared in Capitol Beat News Service

The project is well timed, with the port working to overcome a backlog of cargo containers resulting from pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions.

“The added rail capacity, along with new container storage on and off terminal, are already serving as important tools to resolve the supply chain issues for Georgia and the nation,” Gov. Brian Kemp said Friday.

Efforts to clear the backlog of containers at the port are paying off. Since Sept. 1, the ports authority has seen a 60% reduction in the amount of time containers are on terminal, as major retailers have begun moving cargo away at a faster pace.

The improved flow of cargo and additional space at the Garden City Terminal is allowing the Port of Savannah to expedite vessel service, reducing the number of ships waiting at anchor by 40%.

As early as Monday, the authority will open its first off-terminal overflow container yard fewer than five miles from the port.

“We’re setting up multiple inland locations that will be connected via truck or rail to the Port of Savannah,” said Griff Lynch, the ports authority’s executive director. “We think this will make a huge difference for both importers and exporters as we clear out our yard.”

The Mason Mega Rail Terminal will increase the port’s rail lift capacity to 1 million containers of cargo per year, opening Savannah to new markets in the Midwest, including Chicago, Cincinnati and St. Louis.

Dave Williams/Capitol Beat

Dave Williams is bureau chief for Capitol Beat News Service, a service of the Georgia Press Education Foundation.