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Port officials find replacement tenant for Chiquita


GULFPORT — McDermott International will finish and spool pipe for oil and natural gas drillers at the Port of Gulfport, creating 100 jobs.

The company said yesterday that it will lease space on the port’s East Pier for 10 years, with options for another 30 years. If the port gets environmental approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it may add 15 acres to the pier for McDermott’s use.

Port Director Jonathan Daniels said Houston-based McDermott would invest up to $25 million in the operation. Workers would fabricate pipe and load it onto giant spools that are placed on specialized ships, used to lay pipelines to connect offshore oil and gas platforms to existing pipelines. McDermott’s service and supply vessels will also be based at Gulfport.

“This facility complements our efficiency and our high-performance vessels,” McDermott Executive Vice President Tony Duncan said in a statement. “We will be ideally positioned to serve a wide range of our clients’ needs from this base in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Daniels said McDermott would be moving its current spool base from Morgan City, Louisiana. He said that in addition to full-time workers, McDermott would hire unionized longshoremen to load and unload cargo. Because McDermott wins work one project at a time, he said it wasn’t possible to project how many longshoremen would be employed.

Construction is set to begin in the second half of 2015 and operations are set to begin in early 2016. Daniels said that timeline was originally based on when the port would be able to move the current East Pier tenant, Dole Food Co.’s banana importing operation.

But Daniels said last week’s departure announcement by Chiquita Brands International may allow McDermott to speed up construction. Chiquita, one of Gulfport’s top tenants, is moving its banana importing operation back to New Orleans after decades in Gulfport. Chiquita employs about 100 full-time and part-time workers in Gulfport.

Mississippi agreed to preserve 1,300 jobs and create another 1,300 in exchange for $581 million in federal money to rebuild and expand the port after Hurricane Katrina wrecked facilities. The port has been struggling to make those job targets, and has turned its sights to industrial tenants and companies that need more labor to load and unload ships.

“This announcement is one of many recent positive accomplishments of the Port of Gulfport restoration program,” Gov Phil Bryant said in a statement. “The Port of Gulfport is an important economic driver for south Mississippi, and the investments we are making today will position the region for growth for years to come.”


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