Submitted by Christopher Ragucci
CEO Worldwide Terminals Fernandina (WTF)
October 18, 2018 — 10:38 a.m.
Fernandina Observer notes: Mr. Ragucci asked to rebut and/or clarify information presented in our article about Clyde Davis’ resignation as Port Authority Attorney. His response is provided below.
Worldwide Terminals Fernandina (“WTF”) acquired Nassau Terminals LLC on February 7, 2018
Nassau Terminals was and still is the Operator of the Port of Fernandina pursuant to the existing Operating Agreement (“OA”) which has 5 years left to go.
Under the old Operating Agreement, OHPA had no legal right to approve the acquisition other than WTF needed their consent to pledge the OA to our bank as collateral. They did not “hire” us to be their Port Operator.
As part of the acquisition, WTF paid-off $6.2 million of OHPA’s outstanding bond debt, and agreed to finance another $4.56 million in Advance Use Fees that OHPA owed to Nassau Terminals, with the firm agreement and commitment that by OHPA’s Counsel (who advised that he represents the Commissioners) AND OHPA’s Chairman that we would REPAID through the execution of new long-term (30-year) Operating Agreement which would allow us to recoup this debt (plus interest) over 12 years. This was the only alternative since OHPA was unable to pay us the $10.7 million it owed.
OHPA (through OHPA’s Counsel and Chairman) agreed with this arrangement and encouraged us to go forward with the acquisition. This agreement was witnessed by OHPA’s Financial Advisor.
For the sake of clarity, WTF is OWED and has been carrying $10.7 million of OHPA’s debt since February 7, 2018.
A 30-year Operating Agreement is standard in the Port industry and is required to support the tens of millions of dollars in investment that is required. Without this agreement in place, WTF will not be able to make the investments that are required to be made for the long-term survival and prosperity of the Port.
Davis’ statement that WTF “has not paid monies due to OHPA under the current Operating Agreement” is patently false. There are presently no monies due and owed under the existing Operating Agreement.WTF has honored all its obligations under the existing Operating Agreement.
Davis’ statement that “3rdquarter dockage, wharfage and use feesare due and owing” is also not true. If the existing Operating Agreement remains in force, these monies would not be due and owing until the end of October. Irrespective, any dockage, wharfage and use fees would be employed to OFFSET the $10.7mm owed by OHPA to WTF, as they have been for the previous two quarters, as ratified by OHPA resolutions.
The plan that was agreed to between the WTF and OHPA in April was to make sure that the negotiations of the new Operating Agreement were completed by October 1st. This was to ensure that all payments under the new Operating Agreement would fund OHPA’s NEW operating budget. There is no financial crisis here for OHPA. They just need to conclude the negotiations in an orderly and businesslike fashion and allow us to get back to our focus on growing the Port of Fernandina and attracting more ships and new shippers.
We have already proved our commitment to being good stewards of the Port and true partners with OHPA in connection with the new crane. Even though there was a direct grant of $2 million from the State legislature to fund the crane, it wasn’t accessible until the crane was delivered from overseas. OHPA did not have the money to advance to cause the crane to be delivered, so WTF arranged for BB&T Bank to provide a bridge loan on favorable terms and conditions to OHPA, and for the first time in 30 years, the Port of Fernandina has a new crane on the way.