Two of the big three credit ratings agencies have issued positive credit ratings for the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) this week, citing its solid financial position, a growing regional economy, significant capital support and a strong operating profile.
Moody’s Investors Service issued an A1 rating with a stable outlook to the 2015 bonds as well as the US$155 million in outstanding revenue bonds issued in 2010 while Standard & Poors assigned an A+ rating with a stable outlook on both bond series as well.
However, both agencies acknowledged the challenges SCPA would face from rival nearby ports, with Moody’s noting: ” Evolving shipping patterns on East Coast toward larger ships and fewer calls may place Charleston at a disadvantage relative to New York, Virginia and Savannah.”
The ratings come as SCPA plans to issue approximately US$290 million in new revenue bonds to fund several major capital projects.
These include the purchase of two super post-Panamax cranes and wharf improvements for the Wando Welch Terminal, upgrades to refrigerated cargo infrastructure at both SCPA container terminals, and construction of the Navy Base Terminal.
Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO, said that the ratings indicated SCPA is “well-poised to deliver on an aggressive capital plan”, offering the modern facilities, deep water and reliability necessary for above-market growth.
Moody’s cited SCPA’s current harbour depth as an asset to the organisation’s strong competitive position that will be enhanced by plans to deepen to 52 feet by the end of the decade.
Standard & Poors referenced SCPA’s import-export cargo balance and diversity of top customers as important credit strengths as well as its prominence as a provider of marine infrastructure in the region.