If you have been out 301 north and travelled past the Statesboro-Bulloch Airport you may have noticed the “pop-up” shipping container yard. The containers are stacked two high and are placed on the north side of the active airport runways.

This is a partnership between the Statesboro-Bulloch Airport and the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) which creates these yards off site of the port to place containers.

According to Kathy Boykin, manager of the Statesboro-Bulloch Airport this “pop-up” yard represents a temporary lease agreement with GPA that renews every three months. As part of the agreement GPA made some improvements to the ground on the third unused runway so they could stack containers. This is the same runway they leased to a movie company recently. GPA has also increased security at the airport. They are staffing it with employees who live in Bulloch County which allows them to work much closer to home.

Trucks deliver containers from the port to the airport. They are held there until needed by the Walmart Distribution facility. Walmart then sends a truck to retrieve the needed containers and switches it out with an empty container, which is returned to the port.

Shipping containers line an unused runway Credit: Grice Connect

Airport gifted by the military

The airport was originally built as a military airport and there were three runways in a triangle shape. This was necessary years ago due to planes then having low cross wind components so they had to adjust landing based on wind.

When the military signed over the airport to the City and County as surplus they only kept two of the runways operational. There was also a list of 39 grant assurances put in place with the gift to local governments. Three of these obligations includes operating it as an airport, keeping it open and accessible to the public and all funds generated have to be used for airport projects.

Revenue saves tax funds

The revenue generated by this lease and from the movie will help fund new airplane hangers, and the local match to upgrade and maintain to the runways and taxiway.

“When we accept money from special projects like this it all goes toward funding the airports local match with the federal and state government for improvements which is a direct savings of taxpayer funds,” said Kathy Boykin. “This is yet another way we can help our neighbors and benefit our airport and community directly.”

Part of larger port expansion

GPA has activated four flexible “pop-up” container yards near manufacturing and distribution centers. In addition to Statesboro, the sites include Atlanta, Savannah and Murray County in Northwest Georgia. Placing the containers in these locations brings cargo closer to customers and reduces the length of container storage time at the Port of Savannah. The GPA is also arranging additional sites, which will bring the total annual capacity for the off-port locations to 500,000 TEUs.

The Port of Savannah handled 495,750 twenty-foot equivalent container units in November alone, a 6.7 percent increase over the previous year and a new monthly record for the Georgia Ports Authority. “I would like to acknowledge the incredible teamwork on and off our terminals that have made these results possible,” said Griff Lynch, GPA’s executive director. “Our employees along with Savannah’s stevedores, ILA members, truckers, river captains and many other transportation professionals have pulled together to handle record cargo volumes for an incredible 16 consecutive months. Off terminal, the willingness of our customers, two class one railroads and stakeholders in state and federal government, have allowed us to put into place innovative and effective supply chain solutions.”     

In less than six months, the GPA has designed and begun to bring online an ambitious series of improvements that will increase the Port of Savannah’s annual capacity by 25 percent.

These “pop-up” yards added an additional 500,000 TEUs, growing to a total of 1.6 million of new capacity by June. GPA is also expediting the completion of its Berth 1 expansion which will add 1 million TEUs of new berth capacity and eight ship-to-shore cranes at its docks. The project is now 30 percent complete and will come online at the end of Q2, 2023. “Through the cooperation of our customers and the innovative thinking of our operations team, we’ve trimmed the number of boxes on terminal to allow for more efficient container handling and faster vessel service,” said GPA Board Chairman Joel Wooten. “Additionally, crews are working every day to build the new container yard and dock space that will keep commerce flowing.” 

Herschel DeWayne Grice is the founder of Grice Connect an online news and information company in Statesboro, Georgia. DeWayne has been active in the media for over three decades. He brings a unique insight...