GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Onlookers watched intently as the first Chiquita ship sailed into the Port of Gulfport, Monday
"We been waiting on this ship for two years to come back, and today is a very special day for us because it leaves us with more work," said William Hale who is a longshoreman.
William Hale, like many other longshoremen, lost his job with Chiquita when the company moved to New Orleans in 2014. Since then, Darius Johnson, who is president of the local chapter of The International longshoremen's Association, said they've been getting less hours working for other tenants.
"Local 1303, you know, we just went through a tough time. We shared the work that we had. As Chiquita comes back, those guys that actually lost their position, they get first priority in getting their jobs back and we just move forward," said Johnson.
Johnson also noted that the ships will carry more cargo than they did in the past. The new workload will result in added jobs.
"They're going to a grounded operation. So, I mean, you're going to see more equipment, which is going to take more people to operate it. Just the way it's set up overall, the numbers should be more than we've had in the past," said Johnson.
So, why did Chiquita come back? Port leaders say new cranes helped seal the deal, but overall they felt the Port of Gulfport best fit their needs.
"I think this is a good move for both of us and we are happy. I'm also happy to see the first vessel come in," said Joop In T Veen who is the Chiquita Director of Operations for North America.
With their return, Chiquita has agreed to a 40 year lease.