PORT MANATEE -- Port Manatee is going to have to pay a little more to play with one of its favorite toys.
On Thursday, the Manatee County Port Authority will consider a negotiated agreement with stevedoring company Logistec under which the port would take on an $84,000 annual expense to operate one of the port's two mobile heavy lift cranes.
The agreement comes after Montreal-based Logistec informed the port in January that it planned to exercise a hardship exception clause that would release it from an operating agreement for the crane. Since then, the port has agreed -- pending port authority approval -- to take on a share of the operating expenses plus any repairs that cost more than $75,000.
Port Manatee and Logistec have operated as partners in acquiring, operating and maintaining the cranes since 2008. That year, Logistec financed the $3.96 million purchase price of the first of two Gottwald HMK 6407 cranes. It purchased a second for the port in 2010 for $3.93 million.
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Florida Department of Transportation grant funding initially reimbursed Logistec half the purchase price of the cranes. Since then, the port has used grant money to reimburse the remaining amount, said Andre Dubois, Logistec's director of opera
tions at Port Manatee.
Standing 257 feet tall and capable of lifting 100 tons each, the cranes added cargo and container handling capability to the port's services. According to port information, the cranes have the heaviest tandem lift capability at any Florida port, 165 tons.
A significant portion of that lifting capability was lost on Logistec. The company was getting less than 600 hours of work per year out of Mobile Harbor Container Crane No. 2. Under the terms of the agreement, the company could terminate its operating agreement for the crane at that threshold.
Dubois said there is not enough cargo handling work coming into the port's berth's to justify paying the full cost of running the crane.
"That's what prompted us after five years of operating both units to look in depth as to what the cost was for operating those two units," he said.
Currently, all expenses for both cranes, including crane operator, maintenance, repair, fuel and insurance are paid by Logistec. The company is the cranes' sole operator.
In agreeing to pay $7,000 per month toward the operations of the crane plus handle the big repair bills, the port will continue to receive more than $19,000 per month in crane lease payments from Logistec. Had the company simply exited the operating agreement, the port risked owning a crane that was no longer being maintained.
The port will pay its share of operating expenses out of its cash reserves. Port staff have recommended that the port authority approve the amended operating agreement.
Dubois said he believes the crane will see more use in the near future as Port Manatee attracts more cargo carriers.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.