$200M Georgia rail terminal project to fuel Bluff City logistics growth

Via Memphis Business Journal

A multimillion-dollar Georgia rail development is expected to help grow the logistics market in the Bluff City.

Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) executive director Griff Lynch will brief the Memphis World Trade Club on Savannah’s expanding rail service to Memphis at a virtual luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Port of Savannah’s $200 million Mason Mega Rail Terminal is being promoted as the largest on-dock intermodal rail facility for a North American port. 

The Mason Mega Rail project will combine the current on-dock CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern rail terminals into one facility, and provide each railroad with nine 2,700-foot working tracks. 

“First and foremost, [Georgia Ports Authority] has made a major investment to improve the connectivity between Memphis, Chicago, and Savannah, which is an important thing because the volume to the Georgia ports has been growing,” said Michael Symonanis, director of North America Logistics for Louis Dreyfus Co. 

By doubling the Port of Savannah’s rail lift capacity to 2 million container units per year, the Mason Mega Rail Terminal project is expected to improve the capacity and fluidity of cargo movements to and from Memphis, according to a GPA news release. With phase one of the Mason Mega Rail now operational, CSX and Norfolk Southern are able to make cargo available for pickup in Memphis within three days of being offloaded from a vessel. 

“The Mason Mega Rail Terminal will have a tremendous impact here in Memphis,” said Randy Richardson, executive director of the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission. “Memphis is a major port of call for the Port of Savannah and we will definitely see increased numbers at the Intermodal Gateway Memphis facility in the Pidgeon Industrial area. Savannah is a major East Coast port, serving hundreds of businesses throughout Tennessee and dozens of trains carry ocean freight from.

Memphis World Trade Club president David Underwood said it’s critical to know what infrastructure developments assist the global trade flows between Memphis and the rest of the world.

“Up to 42% of the intermodal exports going through the Savannah gateway originate from the Memphis region, and fluid transportation networks between both regions is critical to the economic success of Memphis,” Underwood said.

Memphis is seen as the best example of Savannah’s market share growth. According to GPA figures, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, loaded exports from Memphis — through Savannah — grew by 24% in August compared to the same month a year ago. During fiscal year 2020 from January to August, Memphis customers accounted for 178,000, 20-foot equivalent units [TEU] of import and export rail cargo for the Port of Savannah — making it GPA’s second-busiest inland destination after Atlanta.

Lynch said GPA’s total amount of loading containers between Memphis and Savannah in August — 10,000 containers — was a 17% increase from the same period in 2019.

“This is during a time where everybody is struggling, so that is really impressive,” he said. “Just to put that in perspective, our overall business for August was up 1% year-over-year, but yet our rail business to Memphis was up 17%. … With part of the Mason Mega Rail operational and opened up, we had new customers come into Memphis and vice versa.”

Memphis exports crossing GPA docks include logs, chemicals, machinery, and cotton. Lynch said for fiscal year 2020, GPA’s cotton export through Memphis grew by 61% over the same period in 2019.

Some of the major imports that cross GPA docks on their way to Memphis includes auto parts, electronics, furniture, and apparel. Construction of the Mason Mega Rail Terminal is slated to be finished by October 2021.

“What any city — and any logistics hub like Memphis — wants is to have options for moving goods,” Lynch said. “I think what Savannah is doing right now is creating a brand new option that is probably the best option from a low-cost standpoint. Memphis is a massive location and there isn’t a lot of gateways that can successfully service Memphis in the way that we can because we are close to it.”

Plaquemines Port upgrades could enhance container on vessel shipping on Mississippi River, huge economic impact on Memphis

Via Memphis Business Journal

A proposed shipping freight terminal in Louisiana could have a multibillion-dollar upriver impact on Memphis, create thousands of jobs in the Mid-South, and lead to a flurry of other potential lucrative opportunities, according to local economic development officials.

The Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) for Memphis & Shelby County detailed how a container terminal slated for Plaquemines, Louisiana, would benefit the International Port of Memphis.

Plaquemines Port Harbor & Terminal District signed an exclusive letter of intent (LOI) on Aug. 13 with several potential partners that will result in the development of a multimodal container terminal on the Mississippi River. It could use a Port of Memphis facility as a major hub, according to EDGE.

The signing of the LOI will begin a six-month due diligence period, during which the parties would conduct multiple studies prior to deciding to investment.

The possible site for the container terminal at the Port of Memphis could be the former TVA Allen Fossil Plant near McKellar Lake Harbor.

EDGE said the container on vessel (COV) proposal would see goods moved three times faster than shipping by barge, with a significant time and cost advantage for exports and imports.

Charles Vance, EDGE director of marketing and communications, said if the river systems are connected to the Gulf of Mexico with COV shipping, with Memphis as a primary port along the route, it would have a dramatic impact on regional economy.

“It essentially provides an alternative route to reach the middle of the country rather than the West and East Coasts,” Vance said. “It would be a great benefit to manufacturers and distribution companies located here and would entice others to want to locate to this area. It would open the door to more distribution warehousing capabilities for the entire region. We would essentially have the ability to attract companies from across the world that want to do business in the middle part of the U.S.”

An analysis by Memphis’ Younger Associates estimated construction of the facility at Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park would have a $1 billion, one-time economic impact from development, including supporting more than 14,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction.

Once open, the local container facility could support 3,200 total jobs, generating $200 million in direct and indirect wages, according to the study. It would also have an a $1.5 billion annual economic impact from ongoing operations.

The Louisiana terminal would encompass up to 1,000 acres and 8,200 feet of Mississippi River frontage 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.

Phase one of Plaquemines construction would take around two years. It would have the capability to handle 22,000-TEU class vessels, and the port could expand capacity if needed.

American Patriot Holdings (APH) also signed the LOI; its 2,375-TEU liner vessel would provide Mississippi River transports as far north as St. Louis.

The proposal has Memphis and St. Louis as primary hubs in a network that could also include Little Rock and western Arkansas; Joliet, Illinois; and Jefferson City and Kansas City, Missouri.

The International Port of Memphis is the fifth-largest inland port in the nation and has a $9.27 billion annual economic impact.


EDGE Continues to Express Interest in Former TVA Allen Fossil Plant Site

EDGE President, Reid Dulberger spoke to the TVA Board of Directors at their meeting in Oxford, Mississippi, on February 12th. He was there to express the continued interest of the city, county, EDGE and Port in working with TVA to redevelop the property at the former Allen Fossil Plant as a state-of-the-art marine multi-modal freight terminal for container and bulk products.

EDGE and the Port Commission are partnering with American Patriot Holdings and the Port of Plaquemines Parrish in Louisiana, to create a new multi-modal marine transportation network in the heart of America. The network would be powered by a new container vessel that could carry more freight and travel at higher speeds than anything currently in the river system. The Allen Fossil plant combined with land immediately north of the site would open up nearly 1,000 acres for the new terminal.

A new multi-modal freight terminal at the Port would attract related manufacturing and assembly operations, as well as additional warehouse and distribution firms to the area. The impact on the local economy would be substantial.

The Port of Memphis is the nation’s 5th largest inland port by tonnage and has direct access to 5 Class I railroads. A recent analysis showed the Port directly supports more than 9,000 jobs and has an annual economic impact of $9.3 billion.