he Tampa Port Authority (TPA) announced that the global rating agency Fitch Ratings has affirmed the TPA’s credit rating of ‘A’ and has provided the authority with a “Stable” outlook. This distinction follows a succession of such positive ratings and stable outlooks designated to the port authority in recent years by the nation’s largest credit ratings firms.
This type of positive rating and stable outlook has been increasingly difficult for ports to achieve due to the economic climate of the last few years.
However, Fitch Ratings cited the authority’s revenue and business line diversification, relatively low debt service levels and the economic conditions in Hillsborough County as key factors in its rating. The port authority realized record operating revenues for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012.
Fitch also referred to the authority’s long-term lease revenues, its prudent cost control strategies and the state of Florida’s significant population growth as strengths.
Fitch also noted that, historically, the port relied on high-volume, low-value bulk cargoes such as phosphate and petroleum for the majority of its business.
The port’s subsequent diversification throughout the last decade, including strong cruise activity and increased container operations, has enabled the port to expand its revenue mix. Additional strengths emphasized by Fitch are the port’s increasing intermodal connectivity and the TPA’s taxing authority. The port’s new service with Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and the completion of the Tampa Gateway Rail Facility were also mentioned as factors in Fitch’s review.
In recent years, the port authority has been working toward a strategic, aggressive capital campaign that has focused on expansion of container facilities, augmentation of bulk cargo berthing capacity and rehabilitation of petroleum docks, which are critical for the west and central Florida market.
Wise financial decisions, guided by a business-model approach and an eye on diversification, have enabled the port authority to experience financial success.
“We are very excited to receive this affirmation and associated Stable outlook from Fitch Ratings. We remain committed to our fiduciary responsibility and to engaging in smart investments and business decisions in developing the Port of Tampa,” Paul Anderson, CEO and port director, said.