A company that wants to start a jellyfish-catching operation in Port Royal has asked to open a shrimping business at the town's shrimp dock, now that jellyfish season is over.
The company wants the town to grant the approval for use of the shrimp dock, which would also allow the business to get established there before next year's season for cannonball jellyfish.
The company has also been looking for a place in Beaufort County to process the jellyfish and eventually ship the product to Asian markets, where it is considered a delicacy. So far, those plans have not been approved by the town or the state.
"Jellyfish season is over, so we're going to have to switch our conversation, until February, to shrimp," Millenarian Trading Co. representative Steven Geise said.
Millenarian Trading is asking the town of Port Royal to consider fast-tracking a management contract that allows the company to operate at the dock and bring in shrimp and other seafood in addition to jellyfish.
According to a letter from Geise, the town would receive money for each pound of seafood brought to the dock, each gallon of fuel sold there and a cut of proceeds from the dock's retail seafood market.
The town would receive 0.035 cents for each pound of jellyfish, 1 cent for each pound of frozen shrimp and fish, 2 cents for each pound of fresh shrimp and 3 cents for each pound of crab brought to the dock. One cent from each gallon of fuel sold would go to the town, as well.
"We're going to do everything in our power to maximize the benefit for Port Royal," Geise said.
The S.C. State Ports Authority would have to agree to the plan, town manager Van Willis said, and the Town Council would need to approve the management agreement.
The dock is leased to the town by the Ports Authority, with an agreement that the property be transferred to the town if the Port of Port Royal property is sold to a developer. Geise said his company would like to negotiate a lease with the town when that happens.
However, with shrimp season fast approaching, Geise wants to be up and running in three to four weeks. That would involve bringing in between $150,000 and $175,000 worth of equipment. Upgrades would include a commercial ice maker, walk-in freezer and repairs to bring the dock up to code, according to the letter from Geise.
He asked Town Council on Wednesday to make a quick decision so that work could begin.
Councilman Joe Lee called the proposal the "only viable option" for the shrimp dock, which has operated at a loss for several years as the town tries to keep it open.
Councilman Tom Klein said he is supportive but concerned about truck traffic on Port Royal roads.
Councilman Vernon DeLoach is concerned about getting into a long-term agreement with the company, which he said he knows little about.
Councilwoman Mary Beth Gray Heyward said her biggest concern is that she has not met the Millenarian Trading managers, despite having asked Geise for that opportunity.
Mayor Sam Murray asked the town manager to draft an agreement for council consideration.