Two more companies receive U.S. licenses for ferry service to Cuba
Caribbean Cuba International Sanctions
Two more companies have secured U.S. approval to offer the first ferry
service from Florida to Cuba in five decades.
International Port Corp. of Miami and America Cruise Ferries of Puerto
Rico are among at least six companies licensed by the Treasury and
Commerce departments, the firms confirmed.
The approvals are the first granted since Washington imposed an embargo
on business with the communist-led island a half century ago. They’re
part of a push by the Obama administration since Dec. 17 to engage with
Cuba, as the island government undertakes more market-oriented reforms.
“International Port Corp. appreciates the opportunity to make history
again with the first regularly scheduled passenger ferry from Miami to
Havana” since the 1960s, a news release said.
Ferry executives say they plan to lure passengers from Florida with
cheaper fares than direct U.S.-Cuba charter flights and allowances for
lots more luggage carried free. Many Cuban-Americans haul food,
appliances, machinery and other supplies to family in Cuba and to the
private businesses there that have been encouraged under President Raul
But scores of questions about the ferries remain unanswered: Will Cuba
allow them in, and if so, how many? Will passengers from Florida opt to
pay $300-$400 each for a ferry ride that could take five to seven hours
each way, rather than $400-$500 for a flight that takes about an hour?
And will all the companies approved be able to find ferries on short
notice to offer the service soon?
If Cuba gives the go-ahead, Americans could travel on the ferries if
they had a specific license or fell within 12 categories that no longer
need a license. Those categories include family visits, educational
travel, religious activities and humanitarian visits, among others.
Americans still can’t visit Cuba for tourism under the terms of the
embargo, which remains in place.
At least four other companies were licensed Tuesday to offer ferries to
Cuba: Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, Baja Ferries of Miami,
United Caribbean Lines of greater Orlando and Airline Brokers Co. of Miami.
On Wednesday, company executives began working to obtain Cuban
approvals, financing, boats and personnel. Some had been waiting months,
others years and at least one for decades for their U.S. license. None
could offer specifics about start dates.
Florida seaports also fielded calls. Companies are exploring ferry
service from the Florida Keys, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, the Port of Palm
Beach and the Tampa area, among others, executives confirmed.
International Port Corp. made history in 2012 by becoming the first
company since the embargo to offer scheduled cargo service from Miami to
Havana. It now aims to carry passengers on the route too, pending Cuban
approvals, said president Larry Nussbaum.
America Cruise Ferries, which now offers ferry services within the
Caribbean, plans to add Florida-Cuba routes to its network, said
attorney James D. Whisenand of Miami.
Cuban officials did not respond to a request for comment on the U.S.
firstname.lastname@example.org, 305-810-5009, @dhemlock on Twitter
Source: Competition rises for Cuba ferry service, as more firms get U.S.
licenses – Sun Sentinel –