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Is Chiquita returning to Gulfport?

SUN HERALD FILE/2005 
 Chiquita was a tenant at the state port in Gulfport for 40 years, but moved to the Port of New Orleans in late 2014. Now, the company is contemplating another move. Because Chiquita has continued to use the state port in Gulfport, along with local storage, officials hope the company might return full force.
SUN HERALD FILE/2005 Chiquita was a tenant at the state port in Gulfport for 40 years, but moved to the Port of New Orleans in late 2014. Now, the company is contemplating another move. Because Chiquita has continued to use the state port in Gulfport, along with local storage, officials hope the company might return full force. THE SUN HERALD

GULFPORT -- Chiquita might jump ship from the Port of New Orleans, a spokesman has confirmed.

A mainstay tenant at the state Port of Gulfport for 40 years, Chiquita moved shipping operations to New Orleans in late 2014.

"We've been involved with Chiquita since the time that they left," the Port of Gulfport's executive director, Jonathan Daniels, told the Sun Herald on Thursday evening. "I have not received anything, but we do hope that if they move from New Orleans, Gulfport, with its long history with Chiquita, will be considered as an option."

Matt Gresham, director of external affairs for the Port of New Orleans, said Thursday evening in a statement to the Sun Herald: "The Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans is aware of Chiquita's potential interest in pursuing other strategic shipping options. The board has received no official notice from Chiquita.

"The board values its relationship with Chiquita and will work with terminal operators, the state of Louisiana and shipping partners to continue the relationship going forward. Port staff and local and state stakeholders consistently seek new services and customers for its terminals to build upon its growing break-bulk and container business."

Chiquita announced its move to New Orleans when the company was supposed to merge with Irish fruit company Fyffes, but that plan fell through. Shortly after the move, Brazilian companies Cutrale Group and Safra Group bought Chiquita.

Chiquita's departure was a hard blow for the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1303, whose members have yet to return to the employment numbers and hours they worked before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Chiquita was supposed to be completely cleared out of Gulfport by the end of 2014, but called the Gulfport port for assistance with paper it was shipping. At the time, Daniels said Chiquita was having issues with congestion at the New Orleans port.

After the move to New Orleans, Chiquita containers filled with paper arrived in Gulfport by truck and rail, where they were stored until they could be moved to New Orleans for southbound shipments. Port of Gulfport tenant Crowley also was shipping northbound Chiquita containers loaded with produce into Gulfport, along with its own cargo.

Daniels said Chiquita continues to store produce for ripening at John Fayard Warehousing in Gulfport, and its familiar containers are regularly at the port for freight shipments.

In New Orleans, Greshman said, Chiquita shipped 244,861 tons of bananas from the Port of New Orleans in 2015, representing 4.8 percent of the port's total container tonnage.

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