Ferry Operators Discuss Connecting Cuba With Florida Ports
Ferry operators interested in carrying cargo and passengers to Cuba have
opened discussions with officials at several Florida ports.
Such service has not yet begun because the Cuban government has not
approved a U.S. ferry to use one of its ports, but ferries are expected
to be a popular way to travel and ship cargo from Florida to the
Jorge Fernandez, CEO of Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, tells
The Tampa Tribune that the company recently met with Cuban government
officials and is optimistic it will receive permission to set sail as
early as June.
Fernandez is interested in sailing from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Key
West, but he also has been exploring ports in the Tampa Bay area. Port
Manatee would be preferred over ports in Tampa and St. Petersburg, he
said, while in Cuba a landing in Havana would be preferred over the port
A ferry from Port Manatee would take roughly eight hours to reach
Havana. That’s 90 minutes closer than St. Petersburg and three hours
closer than Tampa.
Ferry service would be cheaper than baggage fees for a flight for
passengers bringing bulk goods to family in Cuba, said Phil Richards,
president of Havana Ferry Partners. Tickets would cost roughly $290, and
the first 40 to 60 pounds of baggage would be free, he said.
Havana Ferry Partners owns one ferry, a 40-meter, high-speed,
wind-piercing Catamaran that can transport as many as 400 passengers but
no bulk cargo. It likely would leave from Key West, Richards said.
The company is exploring options for vessels that can carry cargo from
“A ferry operation makes profits on the cargo and not on the
passengers,” said Port Manatee Executive Director Carlos Buqueras. “It
would be a real convenience not just for our area but every county south
The Tampa Bay area is home to the third-largest Cuban-American
population in the U.S. but it currently has no regularly scheduled cargo
lines serving Cuba. Neither does the Port of Miami, though Port
Everglades in Fort Lauderdale and the Port of Jacksonville do have
regular cargo service to Cuba.
Port Tampa Bay is talking with ferries looking to connect the area to
Cuba, said spokesman Andy Fobes.
“We have the terminals and the appropriate on-site regulatory agencies
and facilities already in place to handle passengers,” Fobes said,
“and one day, once the embargo is lifted, cargo.”
Port St. Petersburg, owned by the city and marketed as a luxury yacht
center under the name “Port St. Pete,” would likely host ferries
carrying mainly passengers with limited cargo space, said executive
director Walt Miller.
The infrastructure at Cuba’s ports will be tested when U.S. cruise ships
begin sailing there from Miami next month.
“The port facilities, cargo handling, security, customs, immigration _
all of it will be under duress due to the cruises,” said John Kavulich,
president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “I don’t see
Cuba moving forward on ferries until they are comfortable with the
cruise ship operations.”
Published at 1:43 PM EDT on Apr 10, 2016
Source: Ferry Operators Discuss Connecting Cuba With Florida Ports | NBC
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