Savannah, Ga., known worldwide for its historic architecture and cultural richness, has a grittier but no less important asset: the Port of Savannah, a massive engine helping to drive the modern global economy.
It’s about six o’clock on a hazy July morning. Seven miles out in the Atlantic off the ribbon of the Georgia coast, I can barely see Tybee Island, with its picture-perfect lighthouse, hovering to the west like a mirage in the oblique light of dawn. I’m on a small boat motoring alongside the MSC Lisbon cargo ship. About 20 feet above me, a crew member, his face coated with grease, drops lacquered wooden slats strung along two thick ropes, a ladder design unchanged since the 19th century, against the steel hull of the Lisbon. He beckons me to climb up to a black hole in the side of the ship.
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