Ferry may someday connect Manatee to Cuba, officials suggest
Published: November 16, 2012
By SARA KENNEDY — email@example.com
MANATEE — Ferry service between Port Manatee and Cuba is one
possibility should diplomatic relations be normalized between the United
States and the island nation to its south, officials said Thursday.
Ferries may someday ply the waters between Manatee and Cuba, carrying
both passengers and cargo, Port Executive Director Carlos Buqueras said
Thursday after a meeting of the Manatee County Port Authority.
Havana is located about 300 miles south of the port, which is between
Palmetto and the Hillsborough County line.
The launch of ferry service was a topic Buqueras discussed recently
during a trip he made to Spain, he said.
"The operator for Havana is located in Barcelona," said Buqueras, who
later explained that the Port of Havana is operated jointly by a Spanish
company and the Cuban government.
"We want to make sure opportunities to sail from here are welcome at the
other end," he told the port au
thority board, comprised of Manatee County commissioners.
Commissioner Donna Hayes said it was an "opportune time to start working
on this, this is not something that happens overnight."
"A ferry service makes a lot of sense, it makes sense at Port Manatee,
especially with the opening of Cuba, eventually," said Commissioner Joe
"This port stands to gain so much by a ferry operation," McClash said.
Right now, travel to Cuba is difficult because the U.S. lacks diplomatic
relations with the island nation. The U.S. cut ties to Cuba after
communists took over its government in 1959. The U.S. instituted an
economic embargo, which makes it illegal for U.S. companies to do most
kinds of business there.
Any changes that render Cuba more accessible will benefit Florida,
because of its large Cuban population, said Jason Bittner, director of
Tampa's Center for Urban Transportation Research, affiliated with the
University of South Florida.
But when asked about a prognosis for a ferry business, he demurred.
"Whether a ferry service could make any money or not, I wouldn't be able
to pass judgment on that right now," he said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow
her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.