After a 40-year absence, Chiquita Brands International Inc., is returning to the Port of New Orleans.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based Chiquita plans to relocate operations from Gulfport, Miss., to The Crescent City early next year.

During the mid-1970s, Chiquita, which then did business as United Brands, transferred shipping operations from New Orleans to the Port of Gulfport after importing bananas and other fruit for more than 70 years in New Orleans.

Chiquita is forecast to ship 60,000-78,000 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) a year at the New Orleans port.

The volume represents a 15% increase in the port’s current container volume, according to a news release.

Chiquita relocating Gulf port to New OrleansChiquita plans to handle 30,000-39,000 TEUs of bananas and other fresh fruit at the port as well as export those same volumes of other outbound cargos, according to the release.

Louisiana was in talks with Chiquita for a decade and to help reduce the port’s increased shipping and handling costs, the state of Louisiana plans to provide the banana giant $1.11 million-$1.45 million or $18.55 per TEU in yearly performance-based incentives, according to the release.

The port is planning to invest $2.2 million in improvements at a port-owned distribution and ripening facility to be leased to Chiquita, according to the release.

As part of the deal, the port also intends to fund $2 million in refrigerated-container electrical infrastructure improvements and rehabilitate a container freight warehouse, according to the release.

Chiquita relocating Gulf port to New Orleans“We at Chiquita are thrilled to return to the port and the great city of New Orleans as we implement a new shipping configuration,” Mario Pacheco, Chiquita’s senior vice president who manages the company’s global logistics, said in the release. “We are particularly excited about the enhanced service levels to our Chiquita and Great White Fleet customers that will result from this change in our shipping operations and expanded vessel capacity.

Pacheco said the decision to move was not because of dissatisfaction with the Mississippi port.

During May 14 ceremonies, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and other officials welcomed Chiquita.

By improving ocean transportation to Central America, state officials said the move will strengthen the state’s ties to that region and help establish New Orleans as one of the premier ports for handling temperature-sensitive cargo, according to the release.