Congestion at the Port of New Orleans is keeping the port in Gulfport, Mississippi, busy nearly two months after Chiquita was expected to have cleared out its containers there.
Chiquita, which moved to New Orleans in October after 40 years in Gulfport, was supposed to be out Dec. 31. However, Chiquita containers filled with paper are still arriving by truck and rail at the State Port in Gulfport. They are stored there for later movement to New Orleans for southbound shipment.
Along with its own cargo, Crowley Liner Services is shipping into Gulfport northbound Chiquita containers loaded with produce.
Matt Gresham, director of external affairs at the New Orleans port, said the congestion was “totally expected.”
He said container volume at the Port of New Orleans increased by 9 percent in 2014. Several construction projects are underway on the container terminal to relieve congestion, he said. A new rail terminal will increase cargo capacity. A refrigerated racking system should be completed by year’s end for storage of produce, chickens and other cargo that needs refrigeration.
Chiquita, Gresham said, also has ordered equipment for an off-site ripening facility. Meanwhile, he said, the company’s ripening facility near the interstate in Gulfport is still in use.
Gulfport state port director Jonathan Daniels said that port has been handling southbound shipments for Chiquita for about a month.
Daniels said the Gulfport port is charging Chiquita for warehouse and ground storage space under the same rate structure used while the company was a tenant. He was unable to say how many Chiquita containers have moved in and out of the port since January.
Chiquita announced its move to New Orleans when the company was supposed to merge with Irish fruit company Fyffes, but that plan fell through. The company in January was acquired by Brazilian companies Cutrale Group and Safra Group.
“We’ll continue to work with them as long as we can to see if this will develop into something long-term,” Daniels said. “We just don’t know.”