The biggest thing I've ever seen in motion


Savannah is a port city. Located on the Savannah River, about 20 miles inland from the Atlantic, it was a key port for cotton shipments and today is a major container port, handling over 13 million tons of cargo last year, about 9 times the cargo handled by Tulsa's Port of Catoosa.

The other night, I was down on River Street, where Savannah's old cotton warehouses have been converted to restaurants and souvenir shops, walking past a huge yacht and a couple of Royal Canadian Navy vessels, and people-watching, when I saw, barely visible in the darkness, this huge thing coming downstream under the Talmadge Bridge. The deck of this suspension bridge hangs 185 feet above the water, and this huge thing must have covered 80% of that height. It was a container ship, the MOL Discovery, Panamanian registry, its deck stacked six high with containers -- the kind you see pulled behind semis -- and the bridge and towers looming even higher.

I watched in awe as this massive ship obscured our view of Savannah's convention center on the other side of the river. It had come from New York and Newport, and was on its way to the Panama Canal, then Yokohama, Pusan, Shanghai, Yantian, Hong Kong, and Kaohsiung, a 32 day journey. This ship can carry 16,000 tons of cargo.

The sight of this behemoth drove home the meaning of the phrase, "deep water port", oft mentioned in the context of Boeing's search for a home for its 7E7 final assembly plant. A deep water port can accommodate an oceangoing vessel like the MOL Discovery; Tulsa's port can't. In the time it takes for a vessel coming from the Pacific to reach New Orleans for cargo transfer to a barge, the same vessel could be unloading cargo in Savannah.

Savannah has been mentioned as a finalist for the 7E7. In addition to the deep-water port, Savannah has a trained workforce, thanks to the presence of Gulfstream Aerospace, which does design and final assembly of its luxury business jets here. It's a very livable city, hot and humid in the summer, but pleasant the rest of the year, and beautiful all year round, with plenty of cultural and entertainment options. If Boeing doesn't stay in Washington, I'll bet that Savannah gets the nod.

(Yes, I'm aware that Boeing is now talking about moving subassemblies by large cargo plane rather than ship, but the winning city will have to pay for the planes, and Boeing says that a port is still a necessity.)

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 19, 2003 9:12 PM.

Live from Savannah was the previous entry in this blog.

A guest opinion: A presentation on what comes next from a county official is the next entry in this blog.

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