Banana giant Chiquita has returned to Gulfport. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, the company left for New Orleans two years ago, but announced earlier this year it would be coming back.
The first Chiquita vessel since it announced its return pulled into the Port of Gulfport last night. This first vessel is larger than the ships that used to carry Chiquita's products, and it can haul about three times as much cargo.
Jonathan Daniels, executive director of the port, says the total amount of Chiquita containers going through the port will initially be about the same as before the company’s departure. But he says, they plan to grow in the future.
"We also have to realize that they’re only going into a partial terminal," he says. The port is currently in the middle of a $570 million post-Katrina restoration project. "Eventually they will be going into approximately 32 acres in both the north harbor area, as well as terminal 1. When they departed they were in just a little more than 20 acres."
For Gulfport's longshoreman, Chiquita's arrival will mean the return of 80,000 work hours, the equivalent of about 40 full-time jobs. Darius Johnson is the local union president. He said there were some difficult days after the company's departure two years ago.
“So what we did, we actually just stuck together, and we shared the work that we had," he says. "So for them to actually come back and return. our spirits are real high. We just felt like, we were real productive for the Chiquita organization once before, and we're going to be even more productive this go round."
Monday night was also the first time the port used its new $30 million cranes to unload a vessel. The massive cranes arrived at the port in March.