The picturesque, historic city of Savannah is home to the fourth busiest and one of the fastest growing ports in the United States of America, serving as the cargo hub for the entire US southeast. Approximately 18 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, port facilities for ocean going vessels line both sides of the Savannah River. These include the major Garden City and Ocean Terminals, owned and operated by the Georgia Port Authority. The former is a secured, dedicated container terminal (the largest of its kind on the U. S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts) with numerous high-speed cranes that handle over 3.6 million Containers a year. The latter is a secured, dedicated breakbulk facility specializing in a vast array of forest and solid wood products, steel, Roll-on / Roll-off, project shipments and heavy-lift cargoes.
The port also has numerous specialist berths for cargoes such as sugar, fuel, gypsum and timber products along with vast covered storage areas. It also has the ultra safe, secure and modern Elba Island LNG Terminal.
The Savannah maritime community recognizes the need to care for domestic and foreign seafarers and has formed a seafarers’ welfare board as part of the ISWAN International Port Welfare Partnership program. This program aims to improve port welfare services and safety ashore; and enhance the quality of life of seafarers during their invariably time limited port visits.
A number of charitable seafarers’ welfare service providers such as the International Seafarers House and Maritime Bethel have joined the welfare board. They and others provide ships with proactive welfare services visiting ships, transport seafarers ashore and operate shore-based welfare facilities. They transport seafarers ashore to and from downtown Savannah and major retail stores located on the outskirts of the city. This give crews a welcome break from their life in a very industrial environment. Their specially trained Port Chaplains and volunteer ship welfare visitors also offer seafarers pastoral and spiritual support.
Although the USA has yet to become a MLC,2006 signatory, the newly formed Savannah seafarers’ welfare board has the enthusiastic support of local Unions and other maritime organisations. They have pledged to continue supporting the welfare of visiting seafarers, many of whom already benefit from port welfare services. Notwithstanding MLC, 2006, the Savannah maritime community has agreed to work in partnership with the ISWAN international port welfare program not only to further improve access to shore based welfare facilities but also help set standards for other ports in less developed countries to follow.