The coronavirus pandemic has spoiled a chunk of the fruit import business in the United States. Because of that decline, Port Tampa Bay’s board this week took a big slice out of a refrigerated warehouse tenant’s monthly payments.
The board on Tuesday agreed to defer a $25,000 monthly loan payment for seven years and drop rent from $31,000 a month to 5% of revenues once those hit $5 million annually.
Port Logistics Tampa Bay leases 13.7 acres of land with a 140,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse along Berth 219 on Hookers Point. Port Tampa Bay built the $19.1 million facility and Port Logistics equipped it. The facility was finished in the fall of 2017 and got its first shipment of bananas in early 2018. The bananas were said to be the first to arrive at Port Tampa Bay in more than 20 years.
American Shipper reported Port Logistics received its first shipment of Costa Rican pineapples in September 2018.
Seacat Line said it was operating the M/V Juice Express, a combination juice tanker and containership, on a regular service between Costa Rica and Port Tampa Bay on behalf of Seatrade Reefer Chartering and Tampa Juice.
The port did not provide figures on fruit imports this year. But data from Oct. 1 to March 31 shows the port handled 21,264 tons of concentrate and citrus juice, down 60% from 52,953 tons during the same period in the previous fiscal year.
Port Logistics originally agreed to make principal and interest payments on a loan for facility improvements beginning on Dec. 1, 2017, in the amount of more than $97,000 per month for 25 years.
The lease further stipulated that Port Logistics pay rent in the amount of $31,000 beginning Dec. 1 of this year and guarantee a minimum annual tonnage of 125,000 tons handled by the facility each year beginning in 2021.
According to background information provided for the board meeting, “business at the facility has slowed and Port Logistics has requested concessions to its lease obligations” because of the impacts from the coronavirus.
As part of the negotiated amendment to the lease, the monthly $97,041 payment is being split in two, with a primary loan payment of $72,041 continuing to be paid. A secondary loan with a monthly payment of $25,000 is being deferred for seven years.
Beginning Dec. 1 and continuing for three years, Port Logistics will pay a percentage rent of 5% of its adjusted gross sales after hitting $5 million in a calendar year.
The Port Logistics facility features onsite U.S. Department of Agriculture and Customs and Border Protection inspection and fumigation services and more than 100 refrigerated container plugs. There also is an adjacent deep-water berth and a dedicated mobile harbor crane. It also has 6,348 racked pallet positions for the handling of perishable cargo.
Port Tampa Bay also announced Tuesday that it had received a $19.8 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant through its Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program.
The port will use the grant money to complete its Berth 214 project, which includes construction of a 1,300-foot-long berth and a 30-acre container yard.
“Port Tampa Bay has seen unprecedented expansion in our containerized cargo business lines recently and this project will complement that growth,” the port said in the announcement. “These funds will be used to expand our container capacity by 60%, increase the number of deep-draft container vessels the port can receive, improve efficiency with a state-of-the-art truck gate and improve rail access.”
The port completed a $63 million dredging project to expand the Big Bend Channel in April 2019 — a year ahead of schedule. That deepened the inner channel turning basin from 34 feet to 43 feet and widened the entrance channel from 200 feet to 250 feet.
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