Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Port of Tacoma Faces Bond Dilemma

The Port of Tacoma, which has seen 20 straight months of total cargo box declines, could really use some good news for once.

Unfortunately, its luck, or lack thereof, is still holding.

Two years ago, port officials signed financial deals with Dexia Credit and Merrill Lynch Capital Services to help finance the port's Blair-Hylebos Project. Under the terms of the deals, the port agreed to issue $230 million worth of bonds.
Last year, though, the port canceled the project.

Port commissioners were told last week that the port remains obligated to issue the bonds by 2013 or face penalties of about $24 million depending on the going interest rate.

Port officials told the governing board they believe they can work with Dexia and Merrill Lynch to extricate themselves from the situation by substituting existing bonds for those the port is required to issue.

However, the escape plan only makes sense if the port has profit-generating capital projects ready to finance and interest rates are more than the agreed 4.13 percent. Current bond interest rates have been hovering between 4.25 percent and 4.5 percent since January.

Port commissioners said that they believe the renegotiated deals would eventually cost the port money – a particular concern given the ports recent staff layoffs and cuts to maintenance as cargo-generated profits have slipped.