Port of Savannah
Savannah, the second largest city and the chief port of Georgia, is situated on the southern bank of the Savannah River approximately 13 n mi from the Atlantic Ocean. The area surrounding Savannah proper is characterized by flat terrain with extensive marsh land. The city is built atop a bluff of low elevation. Maximum elevations of approximately 11-13 ft are generally reached within 0.3 - 1.1 statute miles to the south and west of the Georgia Ports Authority Ocean Terminal. The surrounding terrain and barrier islands provide little protection to the harbor area, except for cases where the winds are from the south.
The bathymetry along the Savannah coast is characterized by shallow shoals and banks out to 3-7 n mi offshore. Due to the gentle relief of the continental shelf, depths increase gradually and may be only 50 ft 7 - l0 n mi offshore. The gentle slope of the shelf is a characteristic which promotes the generation of storm surge under proper conditions. A deepwater channel is maintained across the bar through Tybee Roads to Savannah's waterfront terminals. Several landmarks and prominent features mark the various approaches to the ocean jetties.
The harbor includes the lower 21 statute miles of the Savannah River. The principal waterfront facilities are located along the southern bank of the river adjacent to the city and on Hutchinson Island, which is opposite the city proper (see Figure XVIII-1). The route of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway crosses the Savannah River approximately 9 statute miles below the primary port area.
Savannah Light is on piles in 50 ft of water, approximately 10 miles eastsoutheast of the jetties. Tybee Light stands near the entrance of the river on the south side. A Coast Guard station and radio beacon are at this light. With an approach from the north, three water tanks on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina are readily visible and, with a seaward approach from the east, red lights atop three radio towers on Oatland Island and three 200-ft-high tanks on Elba Island (about nine miles above the entrance) can be seen.
A dredged channel 40 ft deep at mean low water (MLW) and 600 ft wide is maintained for about 7.0 miles from the sea buoy (Tybee Lighted Whistle Buoy T. 31°58.3'N, 80°44.0'W) to the jetties. From this point, channel depths are maintained at 38 ft MLW as the width decreases to 500 ft, then later to 400 ft. In addition to the channel, there are several turning basins maintained within the river. Pilotage is available on a 24-hr basis with pilots boarding from the pilot boats near the sea buoy.
Most vessels anchor to the north or northwest of the sea buoy. Depths range from 19 to 45 ft with good holding ground. There is no anchorage in Savannah River except in an emergency. The river areas are exposed to the wind and would offer no protection from debris during a storm.
A total of 51 piers, wharves and docks are described in the Corps of Engineers, Port Series No. 14 report for the Port of Savannah. Many of these wharves are multiple purpose although several are designed to handle only specialized cargo, e.g., sugar, fuel, gypsum and timber products. The Georgia Ports Authority terminals are a major site for the transhipment of containerized cargo second only to Baltimore of ports along the Atlantic.
Navy use of Savannah's port facilities has been minimal. The facilities used for docking are the Georgia Ports Authority's Ocean and Garden City terminals. The port facilities used for repairs are Diamond Manufacturing Company and Savannah Machine and Shipyard Company. Navy use of the port may increase in the future if Rapid Deployment Force vessels are based there.
The Georgia Ports Authority Ocean Terminal is located on the right descending bank of the Savannah River. Berths 1 and 2 are about 200 ft below the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge, while berths 10-20 are located above the bridge. The height of the bridge could be an important variable for a Navy vessel needing to sortie before a tropical cyclone strikes. The bridge stands 136 ft above the river during mean high water and 144 ft during mean low water, and an advancing storm might induce surge that could reduce this clearance. A sortie at ebb tide would be extremely difficult because the strong outbound current makes maintaining steerageway difficult around the turns. There are variations in construction methods, alongside depths and deck heights among the available berths at Ocean Terminal. Berths 1 and 2, which have been used by the N.S. SAVANNAH and passenger cruise vessels, have a solid-filled concrete bulkhead with a timber relieving platform supported by timber piling. The alongside depth is 30 ft and the deck height is 14 ft, both MLW. The wharf has a 22-ft apron and the bulkhead is fronted by timber fenders. By contrast, berths 12 to 20 have concrete-decked wharves and prestressed concrete piling. Alongside depths for berths 10 to 20 range from 30 to 34 ft MLW and deck heights are generally 15 ft MLW. Aprons are as much as 57 ft in width. Berths 10A and 10B have concrete-decked wharves on concrete and timber piles. The alongside depth is 30 ft MLW and the deck is 13 ft MLW. Maximum apron width is 23 ft. Note that the numbering system for the wharves at Ocean Terminal is not entirely consecutive. The numbers 3 to 9, inclusive, and 11 are not used.
The Garden City Terminal of the Georgia Ports Authority extends along the right side of the Savannah River from 2.4 to 3.7 miles above the Talmadge Bridge. Berths 51-60 are constructed of concrete, and berths 51-57 have a steel sheet pile bulkhead with solid fill. Alongside depths range from 37 to 40 ft and deck height is 15 ft relative to MLW. Berths 50A and 50B are timber pile, timber-decked offshore wharves with an alongside depth of 34 ft and deck height of 12.5 ft MLW. Berth 61 also has an offshore wharf, a 38-ft depth alongside, and a 15-ft MLW deck height. This berth is constructed of prestressed concrete with concrete-capped breasting dolphins.
Seven other berths in the Savannah Harbor have been constructed well enough and with an adequate water depth alongside to handle smaller Navy vessels. These include the berths of Diamond Manufacturing Company and Savannah Machine and Shipyard Company, the two major marine repair facilities in the harbor. The remaining well-constructed berths are Continental Can, Flintkote Wharf, National Gypsum, American Oil and Colonial Oil Industries. Each of these seven berths, except for the Flintkote Company Wharf, is located above the Talmadge Bridge.
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