Savannah Marine Terminal Inc.

Moving grain and more efficiently and effectively through a major East Coast port
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Drew Taylor

Since 2002, Savannah Marine Terminal Inc. (SMT), a container transloading company specializing in the handling of bulk materials, food-grade and heavy-lift items, has steadily become one of the largest grain transloaders on the East Coast. Strategically located in Savannah, Georgia, the fourth largest container port in the country, and backed by full access to two of the East’s major rail lines – CSX and Norfolk Southern Rail – SMT has become a major player in the transport of grain and other bulk commodities.

With local ownership and a hands-on executive team, SMT has established solid relationships with customers through responsive service. “We take pride in helping our customers grow their businesses while creating long-term, mutually beneficial relationships,” says Victor Vanderlugt, president and CEO of SMT.

Rapid expansion and direct connections

“We’re a very hands-on company and our on-site management allows us to make faster decisions than larger corporations with many layers,” says Justine Vanderlugt, vice president of marketing for SMT. With exceptional service, SMT has grown steadily over the last five years.

SMT’s connection to the grain industry started in 2007. “In 2007, we’d just put up the infrastructure needed and were just learning how to get things going; the volume really started to take off in 2009,” says Victor. “Soybean meal and distiller’s dried grains [DDGs] started to show strong growth.”

Grain now accounts for more than 80 percent of the product that moves through SMT’s facilities monthly. “We just opened a second facility, which connects directly to our other yards,” notes Victor. “Once everything is developed, we’ll have close to 30 acres of transloading facilities, direct connections to CSX and Norfolk Southern Rail and we are only 3 miles from the Georgia Port Authority’s container yards.”

Logistically speaking, SMT couldn’t be more strategically located. The company receives a variety of bulk materials via rail car or hopper trucks. SMT also has more than 80,000 square feet of warehouse space, of which 45,000 square feet is USDA-approved food-grade space. “All three of our warehouses are located within 3 miles of the Port of Savannah and are equipped with the latest inventory control systems to ensure accurate records and the safest product possible,” says Victor.

Making every move count

With additional locations, more storage and machine capacity and multiple grain transfer systems, product moves quickly and efficiently from railcar or hopper to container and onto a vessel in the Port of Savannah. “We also have a bagging system that is capable of bagging product in jumbo totes and transfers into containers or trucks,” adds Victor. “We have the capacity to unload 40 cars a day and a 22 truck fleet for drayage.”

While grain has made up the bulk of business for SMT, the company is venturing into other commodities. “We’re working with other types of bulk material and our USDA-inspected warehouse can also handle and bag products such as tapioca, specialty wheat and canola,” says Justine. “No matter what we do, our goal is to be as efficient and innovative as possible in moving material.”

Over the years, SMT has developed state-of-the-art unloading equipment, allowing the company to effectively move just about any kind of material. “We take on any challenge,” adds Victor. “Some material is more difficult to unload than the next, but we find a way and we’ll do it, whether we make money on it or sometimes, even if it costs us money. We’ll do it to keep the relationship with the customer.”

With versatile unloading and material handling capabilities, Victor says SMT is better equipped to handle the ebbs and flows of the commodity business. “When it’s flowing, everyone wants to send you cars, but then the challenge is to turn those cars around and not sit on them, so with every new growth cycle we usually experience a new growing pain until we get the process perfected,” he explains.

But by reinvesting in facility expansion and keeping key decision makers on-site, SMT has stepped up to meet any number of challenges that routinely arise in the transloading process.

With more than 35 years of experience in the transportation industry, hands-on ownership, diverse, strategic locations and leading capabilities, Savannah Marine Terminal continues to grow as one of the prominent transloading companies on the East Coast.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
AgriLogistics Inc.
Nordic Dry Desiccants