TAMPA, ELLER REACH TERMINAL BUY-OUT ACCORD PORT TO ASSUME OPERATOR ROLE

TAMPA, ELLER REACH TERMINAL BUY-OUT ACCORD PORT TO ASSUME OPERATOR ROLE

The Tampa Port Authority cleared the last remaining hurdle in its transition

from a landlord to an operating port.

The port reached agreement last week to purchase the port's dry cargo terminal from Eller & Co. for $4 million.The takeover is the third and final buy-out of Tampa's private terminal operators. Port authorities contend that positioning the port - which has traditionally been known as a bulk handler - as an operating port will help attract general cargo.

A tentative purchase date has been scheduled July 16, at which time the port will assume operation of the terminal.

''Eller will continue to operate stevedoring at the Port of Tampa," said Ellsworth Brown, director of Tampa Bay International Terminals, a separate entity formed by the port to operate its terminals.

''With this final acquisition of the last terminal, the Port of Tampa can begin to market the port as a whole," Mr. Brown said earlier this week. ''It gives us a tremendous flexibility in facilities and location, enabling us to dedicate specific facilities for specific commodities such as newsprint, linerboard, steel imports and pipe structures."

Mr. Brown said specific details must still be negotiated, but the overall purchase price has been agreed upon.

Last year, Tampa Bay International Terminals bought out the port's two other terminal operators, Garrison Stevedoring and Terminal Operators Inc. and Southport Stevedores, for about five times each firm's cash flow, for $4.2 million and $1.9 million, respectively.

Initial discussions between the port-sponsored entity and Eller considered a complete sellout by the terminal operator, which also runs a variety of other businesses at Tampa.

Eller is the parent firm of Harborside Refrigerated Services Inc., which operates the largest cold-storage warehouse at the Port of Tampa.

Eller is based in Coral Gables, Fla. Arthur Novacek, its president, said the company is the largest stevedore operating in the region between between Wilmington, Del., and Jacksonville, Fla.

At Tampa, Eller also owns an 80,000-square-foot warehouse on 25 acres of land next door to the Turbana Bananas SA operation.

The firm also a coal storage facility on Florida's west coast and acts as agent for two cruise lines in Tampa.

Mr. Brown blames the extended negotiations with Eller on the fact that Eller is a multiport operation and the other two firms bought out were locally owned.

''These negotiations are more complicated because Eller is owned by Carey Energy Co. in New York," Mr. Brown said. "The logistics slows everything down."