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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, May 5, 202112:53 PM EST

JaxPort gets ‘A,’ stable revenue bond rating

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New York-based credit agency Fitch says the grade is linked to a versatile financial position despite the pandemic. 
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

Credit agency Fitch Ratings says the Jacksonville Port Authority’s rating on its $129.8 million outstanding revenue bonds remains at “A” and has a stable outlook. 

The New York City-based international credit rating agency April 16 report cites JaxPort’s growing automobile and container activity and long-term contracts with container and cargo tenants as reasons for the stable rating. 

Fitch called JaxPort’s financial and operating position “versatile” despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our diversity of business and strong relationships with our customers, along with the investments that have been made in our port by our federal, state, local, and private partners, have helped ensure that we can continue to grow and thrive in today’s industry,”  JaxPort CEO Eric Green said in a news release May 5.

In its analysis, Fitch noted JaxPort has recorded growing revenue in recent years and hit most of its financial targets in 2020 while Asian cargo and automobile volumes declined during the pandemic.

“Total Asian container cargo accounts for 25% and has rebounded in recent months. Additionally, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean cargo services outpaced 2019 results, providing an offsetting uplift to performance,” the Fitch report states.

“While coronavirus-related disruptions are likely to impact port operations, JaxPort is well-positioned to weather near-term declines associated with the pandemic.”

In the last year, the port made progress on projects that could expand capacity for international shipping customers.

City Council approved a $70 million city contribution and a $40 million bridge loan in August for a $484 million, 11-mile portion of JaxPort’s St. Johns River dredging and harbor deepening.

“A number of major projects, anchored by harbor deepening, will be coming online in about the next 18 months, allowing us to build on the success we’re experiencing and accommodate continued growth for the benefit of our customers and community,” Green said in the release.

Port officials say the plan will increase JaxPort’s lane capacity for larger ships to attract higher volume carriers.

In January, the port and JEA resumed talks with JEA about the future of the 2,000-acre former St. Johns River Power Park site and surrounding land.

Port officials are interested and buying and redeveloping North Jacksonville property that has access to the river and Blount Island.

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