Port Fire Price Tag Close to $20 Million

The fire destroyed part of a warehouse and its contents, approximately 1,800 tons of palletized rubber valued at under $2 million

March 25--The Georgia Ports Authority board, meeting Monday on Jekyll Island, voted to authorize ports executive director Curtis Foltz to issue purchase orders and contracts totaling up to $20 million for the clean-up, site remediation and reconstruction associated with a massive fire at GPA's Ocean Terminal last month.

The fire destroyed the northern half of Warehouse No. 3 and its contents, approximately 1,800 tons of palletized rubber valued at just under $2 million.

The cause of the fire has not been released. Both the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the state fire marshal's office are investigating.

"It's our understanding that ATF has lead on the investigation because the warehouse contained products of international trade," GPA chief operating officer Griff Lynch said Monday.

The fire, which filled the sky above the terminal with a plume of thick black smoke, broke out shortly after 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, and took most of the day to get under control.

Multiple emergency response agencies and disaster remediation organizations worked together with GPA personnel to extinguish the fire, secure the site and begin the massive clean-up effort.

Georgia Ports staff executed temporary leases with adjacent property owners to clear the impacted storage areas and continue providing contractual services to customers while the building is repaired.

Jamie McCurry, director of administration and governmental affairs at the ports, said costs associated with the clean-up will be reimbursed by GPA's insurance carriers. Estimated costs include approximately $300,000 to the Savannah Fire Department, $11.5 million for temporary leased facilities, site remediation, debris removal and other clean-up efforts, as well as approximately $8.5 million to replace the destroyed portion of the building.

GPA will submit invoices, along with proof of payment, to its insurance carriers for reimbursement.

Replacement of the full structure and close out of all claims is expected to be completed within the next 12 months, McCurry said.

Strong Growth

In other GPA business, the authority recorded continued strong growth in February, handling some 2.4 million tons of freight -- including nearly 250,000 containers.

For the first eight months of the fiscal year, which began July 1, Georgia Ports has moved more than two million twenty-foot equivalent container units, or TEUs, an increase of 6.2 percent over the same period last year.

So far in fiscal 2014, GPA has moved 19.2 million tons of cargo, an increase of 7.6 percent over the first eight months of fiscal 2013.

Roll-on/roll-off cargo was up 5.6 percent, with nearly 439,000 autos and machinery units processed. Bulk cargo, such as soybeans and wheat, totaled 1.86 million tons, up 6.6 percent.

Foltz said he expected the upward trend to continue through the rest of the fiscal year.

"The strong growth experienced throughout our business sectors this fiscal year demonstrates the resilience and strength of the southeastern market and a positive return on the continued investments in Georgia's ports, rail, roads and logistical supply chain," he told the board.

GPA board chairman Robert Jepson said the Ports Authority staff also deserves credit for what he called "their uncanny ability to see both their feet and the horizon at the same time."

"This management group not only knows what it takes to be the best in the industry right now, they have determined what it will take in the future and know what they need to do to get there," Jepson said.

"I have served on lots of boards and I can tell you that it is a delight to work with this group of professionals."

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