Wednesday, the Port of Gulfport confirmed that Chiquita will not be renewing its lease. After almost 40 years at the Port of Gulfport, Chiquita Banana is sailing off to New Orleans. While there's been speculation as to why the group is leaving, port officials say Chiquita's departure boils down to big financial incentives provided by New Orleans.
Jonathan Daniels, the Director of the Port of Gulfport, says, "The amount of funding that they will be providing in incentives is more than Chiquita was paying us on an annual basis for our lease, for warfage, for dockage, for all the fees associated with it." The port tried to negotiate with Chiquita to keep them in Gulfport, but Chiquita, after a $15 million payout from Louisiana, gave Gulfport no chance. Daniels also says, "We have been assured that it was a business decision that was made. It’s not anything that has been done by our labor. They have absolutely been providing them the most efficient operation of any in their network."
Port directors say Wednesday's announcement is bittersweet because Chiquita leaving will mean a loss of jobs. However, the new tenant being announced on Monday will bring in even more jobs than Chiquita was providing. Truck Casey, Gulfport Councilman and longshoreman, says, "This new tenant will probably have more personnel, longshoremen working, than Chiquita had. So if Chiquita had 80, hopefully the new tenant will provide 160 and it'll double the number of longshoremen that are working every day." Of course, the new tenant will bring jobs back to the port, but the gap between Chiquita's departure and the new tenant's arrival will leave longshoremen without a job. Until then, the International Longshoremen's Association will work with the port to find new employment for the union workers. The Port of Gulfport will announce its new tenant Monday morning at 10:30 a.m.
Regarding Chiquita's departure from Gulfport, Governor Phil Bryant released this statement: "The company is changing its delivery model, and its shipping partner chose New Orleans. The company was financially incentivized by the State of Louisiana, which is not unusual. We wish them all the best with their decision.” Bryant says his administration will work hard to replace the jobs by continuing to seek more tenants for the port.