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June 09, 2014

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40 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE JUNE 9.2014 U.S. GULF REPORT SPECIAL REPORT SHIPPING LINES CHANGE ports all the time, but a recent service announcement by Chiq- uita Brands International held a special significance for New Orleans that port CEO Gary LaGrange was quick to recognize. LaGrange beamed during a May 14 cer- emony in which the company announced plans to transfer its Gulfport, Mississippi, port calls to New Orleans, where Chiq- uita predecessor United Fruit operated for decades until the early 1970s. "In many, many ways, this is a great and historic moment for the Port of New Orleans, city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," LaGrange said. "The oppor- tunity to bring home the leader of industry in the early to mid-part of last century is absolutely fantastic." Bananas were a top cargo for New Orleans and a colorful part of the Missis- sippi River waterfront for most of the 20th century. United Fruit and Standard Fruit, a locally based forerunner of Dole Fresh Fruit, made New Orleans the primary U.S. gate- way for shipments of bananas from Central America. The companies' relationship with New Orleans soured in the 1960s and 1970s amid frequent labor disruptions and the decline of rail service. Aided by state incentives, Stan- dard moved its New Orleans operations to Gulfport in 1967, and United followed a few years later. Chiquita's move back to New Orleans resulted from years of wooing by LaGrange and other officials, a package of state financial incentives, and Chiquita's plans for a supply chain overhaul that will include a vessel-shar- ing alliance between its Great White Fleet unit and Mediterranean Shipping Co., whose con- tainer ships call at New Orleans. LaGrange, a Louisiana native who was Gulfport's port director before taking his current post in 2001, had worked for a decade to persuade Chiquita to return to New Orleans. The stars finally aligned this year. In Ma rch, Chiquita a nd Irela nd- By Joseph Bonney CHIQUITA SWEET ON NEW ORLEANS The banana importer's shift marks a return to past glory for the Louisiana port The Freeport LNG plant's output will be transported in specialized ships, but the energy boom in the region could provide the port with additional container traffic. The port is talking with a potential cus- tomer about shipping LNG to the Caribbean in tank containers, Carlson said. Freeport also is developing part of a 240-acre site for warehousing and packaging of petrochemi- cal projects into bags that will be palletized and loaded into containers. When the projects under construction or in planning are completed, they could provide Freeport with a stream of con- tainerized cargo that now moves through Houston, Carlson said. "There probably are 2,000 export loads a week in the area," he said. "Instead of a $350 dray to Hous- ton, they could use Freeport and have a $50 local dray." The port boasts a state-designated high- way corridor in which trucks can carry containers loaded with up to 60,000 pounds of cargo instead of the regular maximum of 45,000 pounds. Freeport has transferred some heavy-lift containers to barges, and the boxes could move directly to ships if the port attracts regular liner service. Port Freeport handles about 60,000 20-foot-equivalent units a year of containers, mostly bananas. The port's 20-year master plan scheduled for completion this month calls for construction of a second container berth. Freeport handles bananas from Dole Fresh Fruit, Chiquita and Turbana. Turbana is half-owned by Fyffes, which in March merged with Chiquita Brands International. Turbana plans to discontinue Freeport calls on its service that currently stops in Wilm- ington, Delaware, en route from Central America, Carlson said. Freeport's 45-foot-deep channel is among the deepest on the Gulf Coast. The port won congressional authorization in the recently passed water resources bill for deepening of the port's main channel to 55 feet and deepening the channel to the port's container berths to 50 feet. The port also is close to starting work on a locally funded project to widen a channel bend that currently restricts ships to 820- foot maximum length. The "bend easing" will accommodate Panamax ships of up to 965 feet. JOC Contact Joseph Bonney at and follow him on Twitter: @JosephBonney.

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