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United Fruit Company - the People


Bananas being removed from hull of ship
Bananas being removed from hull of ship

In warm weather ports, such as New Orleans, Mobile, and Los Angeles, the systems allowed for laborers to unload 2,000 banana bunches per hour. Unlike cold weather facilities, the southern and western systems were permanently located and specialized in the task of unloading bananas. Giant booms lowered conveyor belts equipped with pockets into the ship's hold and lifted out the cargo to horizontal conveyors. As the banana carriers arrived at the terminal, banana handlers climbed into the bow of the vessel where the banana stocks were solidly packed.

Bananas moving along conveyor belts
Bananas moving along conveyor belts

A team of 12 men worked at each level of the ship's hull, loading the stocks to the conveyor belts. It generally took the workers 2 days to unload a banana carrier. The horizontal conveyors aligned with numerous rows of awaiting railcars. This parallel system of conveyors permitted workers to load far more railcars simultaneously. Workers counted and weighed the bananas as they passed through the system. Quality control workers examined the fruit for disease, blemishes, or ripening. Any yellowing bananas were sent directly to local markets because only green unripened bananas would survive the long trip out of state.