0

Conference calls for area to be ready for future

Brad Lafevers, President of Atlantic Western Transportation, thinks the new inland port at Cordele could help turn Southwest Georgia into the next logistics hub in the state.

Brad Lafevers, President of Atlantic Western Transportation, thinks the new inland port at Cordele could help turn Southwest Georgia into the next logistics hub in the state.

ALBANY, Ga. — Logistics, by the simplest definition, is moving goods from point A to point B. The dots in between two points is where things can get complicated.

Darton College held its first Global Logistics Conference recently and several experts point to an expansion of the Panama Canal and the deepening of the port of Savannah as precursors to an expected logistics boom in the state.

“Logistics is in the DNA of the state of Georgia, it goes all the way back to our roots,” Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics Executive Director Page Siplon told the gathering. “Supply chains are complex and there are a lot of dots between point A and point B that have to be defined.”

Siplon says the state is about to see a dramatic increase in freight traffic. The Panama Canal will double freight capacity in 2014 after a third set of locks is constructed. The bigger, deeper locks will provide room for larger cargo vessels.

To take advantage of the increased cargo volume, the port of Savannah is in the midst of a race against time and a funding battle to deepen the port to accommodate the larger ships expected to flow through the canal.

“The Panama Canal is the driver in all of this,” Siplon said. “Estimates are that 4 billion tons of new freight will pour into Savannah by 2050. We have to add more capacity and infrastructure, just building more is not good enough.”

That’s where Cordele Intermodal Services comes in. Also known as the Cordele Inland Port, CIS is a rail-truck connection between the Port of Savannah and Interstate Highway 75 in Cordele.

The idea is to offload metal shipping containers from ships in Savannah, place them on a Heart of Georgia short line freight train and transport them to Cordele, where the containers are then loaded onto trucks for delivery.

“The two major logistical hubs in the state are in Atlanta and Savannah,” Atlantic Western Transportation President Brad Lafevers said. “At some point Atlanta and Savannah are going to say ‘we don’t want anymore. We’re at capacity and can’t handle anymore.’ So now businesses will have to ask themselves ‘what’s our alternative?

“We want to be that alternative.”

Lafevers is convinced that the Cordele inland port can provide a logistics economic boom for southwest Georgia.

“Industry follows infrastructure,” Lafevers said. “We will have the capacity, the capability and the connectivity to move large amounts of freight quickly and efficiently. We have to be ahead of the curve here, and right now we have the complete system in place.”

The trick, Lafevers added, will be selling it to the shippers.

“If we want to change the game we have to focus on new and innovative ideas,” he said. “If we continue along the path we are on now, Atlanta and Savannah will implode with congestion. That’s why were are asking the governor and people in Atlanta not to leave the rest of the state out of the boom that is coming.

“We have to make industry look some place other than Atlanta and Savannah for alternatives. There will be a new logistics epicenter in the state, and our goal is to make Southwest Georgia that new logistics hub.”