Chiquita Brands International Inc., Charlotte, N.C., announced plans to relocate its shipping operations from the Port of Gulfport in Mississippi to the Port of New Orleans after nearly a 40-year hiatus.

The company plans to ship 30,000-39,000 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) of bananas and other fresh fruit, as well as 30,000-39,000 TEUs of various outbound cargos. Company shipments in New Orleans are expected to begin by the first quarter of 2015.

“We at Chiquita are thrilled to return to the port and the great city of New Orleans, as we implement a new shipping configuration,” says Mario Pacheco, senior vice president who also supervises the company’s global logistics. “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. We have valued our partnership with the Port of Gulfport and thank them for many years of great service. This was a clear business decision for us surrounding our new shipping configuration rather than any dissatisfaction with the strong and economically competitive team we have had at Gulfport.”

The project will strengthen both the state’s and the New Orleans Port’s ties to Central America. It will result in improved ocean transportation to those countries, and helps further establish New Orleans as one of the premier ports for handling temperature-sensitive cargo. Additionally, the new ocean service will benefit shippers looking to export more cargo to Central America.