Dole Commits to Gulfport State Port

GULFPORT, MS (AP) — The state Port at Gulfport and Dole Fresh Fruit Co. are finalizing a deal to keep the company at the port for 13 years with renewal options that extend through 2037.

Under the agreement, Dole will relocate their operations to the West Pier, significantly increasing capacity at the port. The state of Mississippi is investing $30 million in the West Pier terminal construction for Dole.

The money is part of $570 million the federal government gave the port for West Pier expansion and restoration post-Hurricane Katrina in exchange for creating 1,300 jobs.

Dole is the port's largest tenant. Chiquita has announced it is moving to New Orleans by the end of the year.

"It's great news for the port; it's great news for the region as a whole," Mississippi Port Authority Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Daniels said Tuesday.

Daniels said the new agreement has Dole relocating to the Chiquita facility and eventually to a new terminal. This move will nearly double Dole's storage space at the port.

"More space, more containers, more cargo moving through. Ultimately that will translate into more longshoremen hours," Daniels said. "That's more full time equivalence in that certainly helps us to meet the job obligation for HUD funding for 1,300 jobs."

Daniels said these long-term commitments make the future very bright for Mississippi and the port.

Dole's current lease was set to expire in 2017.

Dole currently occupies more than 140,000 square feet of warehouse space as well as 24 acres of open storage and container parking space on the port's east pier. The new terminal on the west pier will encompass almost 40 acres and will also allow them to increase container storage capacity by nearly 50 percent. The new warehouse complex will increase dry storage capacity, while also including construction of 20,000 square feet of temperature controlled space.

"We have been at the Port of Gulfport for 50 years, and this agreement affirms our continued commitment to the people of Mississippi," Barry Jung, Director of North American Terminal Operations for Dole Fresh Fruit Company said in a statement.

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