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Port awaits word on whether Chiquita will stay

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News,Business

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — Chiquita Brands International must decide by May 15 whether to extend its lease for two years at the state Port at Gulfport.

Port executive director Jonathan Daniels told The Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/1iETgSd) Chiquita is analyzing all aspects of its logistics from shipment points in Central America through distribution.

Chiquita is one of four anchor tenants at the port. Chiquita recently announced a merger, to be completed later this year, with Irish fruit company Fyffes. Chiquita's lease expires July 15.

The company charters its ships. Daniels said Chiquita's charter on the Eurus London, which sails into Gulfport once a week, is nearing an end.

Daniels is optimistic, though.

"Ultimately, our longshore labor has proven to be as flexible and efficient as any longshore labor they are going to find," he said.

Given all factors, he believes Gulfport will be Chiquita's most cost-efficient option.

Chiquita provides about 1/3 of the union's annual man hours at the port, said Darius Johnson, president of the International Longshoremen Association, Local No. 1303.

Chiquita has been a port tenant for 40 years.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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