Diamond State Port Corporation and Dole Food Company reached an agreement in principle, calling for the produce giant to use the Port of Wilmington for the next 15 years. The current agreement was set to expire in 2015.
The agreement remains subject to negotiation of final documentation and approval by the boards of both Dole and Diamond State. The agreement would give Dole two options for 10-year extensions.
Paulsboro, N.J. had been working to attract Dole to its river port.
“We are pleased that Dole has agreed to stay in Delaware and remain an important part of the Port of Wilmington,” said Alan Levin, chairperson of the Diamond State Port Corporation. “Dole had other options for its business, but keeping Dole in Wilmington is a priority for the port and we worked hard to reach terms that would do that. This is a very competitive industry and our agreement reflects that.”
It was feared that the loss of Dole would lead to the flight of other shippers from the port. The General Assembly had earlier approved new crane equipment for the port. Levin said the equipment, built in Europe, will take 18 months to two years to build and install at the port. Further improvements for the port will be undertaken in partnership with the Delaware General Assembly, Levin said.
Levin said the fact that Dole had operations in place at the port and Paulsboro did not worked in favor of Delaware. While feasible, building facilities from scratch within two years presented a challenge, Levin said.
“Dole is pleased that we will continue to do business in Delaware for many years to come,” said Stuart Jablon, vice president of operations for Dole Fresh Fruit. “The agreement in principle that we have reached will enable Dole to remain competitive and position it well for future growth.”
“Dole is a big part of our port family,” said Gene Bailey, executive director of the DSPC. “We are grateful for the support of the governor and the General Assembly, which has allowed us to make the capital improvements we need to make to keep Dole and remain competitive with ports on the Delaware River and throughout the region.”
Dole has used the Port of Wilmington since 1982 and is the port’s largest customer. Dole imports bananas, pineapples, other tropical and deciduous fruit, and exports forest products and general cargo. It leases 37.5 acres at the port and its vessels make about 52 vessel calls annually.
Dole Food Company, Inc., with 2012 revenues from continuing operations of $4.2 billion, is one of the world’s largest producers and marketers of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The port is a top gateway for imported perishable cargo and operates the largest on-dock cold storage complex in North America. The seaport is responsible for 4,300 jobs annually generating $365 million in business revenue. The port is owned and operated by the Diamond State Port Corp., a corporation of the State of Delaware.