This lone Dole ship docked at the west pier of the port of Gulfport may not look impressive, but to port director Don Allee, it is definitely a sight for sore eyes.
"We are back in business," said Allee.
After sustaining severe damage from Hurricane Katrina, the port was not expected to provide service to its customers until on or after September 30th.
That changed Wednesday morning, when the ship had to be diverted from Texas due to the approaching Hurricane Rita.
"Early yesterday morning, Dole approached the port to see if we could do anything in advance of that 30th of September date, and all of the agencies, all of the service providers came together and we were able to receive the ship this morning around 10:30," said Allee.
The port made modest improvements to one of its damaged docks, preparing to welcome the fresh fruit company who has called the port home for 40 years.
With the port being out of business for over three weeks, Dole was hoping to get back to business as soon as possible, but not simply for financial reasons.
"We really wanted to get back in and put our people back to work. That was the real thing. Not just our direct employees but all our contracts, stevedores, the longshoremen, you know these guys need to work and that was our whole goal," said Dole U.S. Ports vice president Dennis Kelly.
So, as the saying goes, our ship has finally come in - hopefully good news not only for the port, but for South Mississippi.
"The fact that a vessel was willing to come in here in advance of that September 30th date, I think is a tremendous tribute to the faith that our customers, our users, and our service providers have in South Mississippi," said Allee.
Allee says Dole is back on its regular schedule docking at the Port of Gulfport.
Crowley Shipping and Chiquita are expected to begin returning to the port in a matter of days.