USA: Congressman, FDA Commissioner Visit Port of Savannah
U.S. Congressman Jack Kingston met with FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg for a briefing and tour of the Port of Savannah Monday.
“One of the core missions of the FDA is to ensure that the food on our dinner tables and in our school cafeterias is safe to eat,” Kingston said. “That effort includes keeping a watchful eye over the food imports that enter our country through our ports.”
Dr. Hamburg said globalization has multiplied the scale of the FDA’s responsibility.
“This year, we expect that nearly 20 million shipments of food, devices, drugs, and cosmetics will arrive at U.S. ports of entry. Just a decade ago, that number was closer to 6 million, and a decade before only a fraction of that. I am coming to the port in Savannah to demonstrate how we can work together to both protect the public and support the growth of the port and the economic benefits it brings.”
Kingston said that ensuring the safety of American food products has a carry-over effect on the trust in international markets for U.S. exports.
“Agriculture is the backbone of Georgia’s economy and our state’s largest industry, employing one in seven Georgians,” Kingston said. “Maintaining a safe, abundant and healthy food supply will help promote our state’s future prosperity and maintain those jobs.”
GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz touted the GPA’s record on food exports – some 40 percent of America’s poultry exports move through the Port of Savannah – and on the import of commodities such as sweet onions from South America, which keep Georgia farm workers busy with packing and shipping during the off season.
“The Georgia Ports Authority is working with our federal partners at the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the security and efficiency of the supply chain, in order to provide better service for our customers and safe food for the American public,” said Foltz.
Foltz also noted the broad impact of Georgia’s ports in other areas of the state’s varied agricultural industry.
“In addition to poultry and other important farm produce sectors, Georgia’s deepwater ports provide a vital gateway to global trade for the state’s forest products, from wood pulp and paper to renewable fuels like wood pellets that offset the use of coal in energy production,” Foltz said.
GPA Board Chairman Alec Poitevint said Georgia ports’ role in global trade has a major impact on the nation’s economy.
“As the fourth busiest container port in the country, the Port of Savannah serves approximately 21,000 companies in all 50 states, over 75 percent of which are headquartered outside of Georgia,” Poitevint said. “In fact, one out of every eight of our nation’s export containers departed from Savannah in fiscal year 2011, and trade in export commodities means new jobs for our entire region.”
FDA Commissioner Hamburg’s visit is the latest in a string of federal appearances at the Port of Savannah. In November, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood lent his support to the project during a meeting with Governor Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. In February, Acting U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank toured the facility along with Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss.
Kingston said deepening the Savannah River channel is a necessary part of U.S. preparations for a new, larger class of container ships. While the Port of Savannah regularly handles these larger vessels via the Suez Canal, the ships cannot load to their capacity, or must time their arrival and departure with the tides. In 2014, the Panama Canal expansion will be completed, opening busy Pacific routes to ships with drafts as deep as 50 feet.
The port deepening will allow greater speed and flexibility in serving these new ships, expected to arrive in greater numbers after 2014.
“The expanded canal will have a transformative effect on Panama, and I know that completing the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project can have the same impact on our state, our region and the country as a whole,” he said.
Dredging Today Staff, April 10, 2012; Image: gaports