It was an evening of firsts on the West Pier.
The first Chiquita ship rolled in almost two years after the fruit company severed its 40-year tenancy at the State Port of Gulfport for a berth in New Orleans.
Chiquita’s committing to another 40 years, counting lease options.
It will be the first use of the state port’s new cranes that were ordered from China at a cost of $30 million. Two of the three cranes will unload the ship, carrying more than twice the cargo of its predecessors.
Chiquita sailed into the port and docked at 6:30 p.m. The union workers are seeing the return of hours equivalent to 40 full-time jobs.
Every job counts, and the federal government is counting. The port needs to create 1,200 jobs in exchange for $570 million handed over for economic development after Hurricane Katrina.
The money went toward those cranes, expanding the West Pier and raising it to 14 feet, adding a rail, wharf, towering lights, buildings and lots of pavement.
Chiquita will be the first to use a massive dry-storage building that is half completed. The company’s cargo will go on the north end.
A chiller will be added for Dole.
Dole was unloading Monday, too. Tenants will shuffle around until work is complete in the third quarter of 2017.
It was a momentous day for the port’s executive director, Jonathan Daniels, who was joined dockside by Chiquita U.S. Director of Operations Joop in ‘t Veen.
Daniels inherited the expansion project, and, despite the construction, signed on new tenants and lured back Chiquita.