US President Barack Obama's landmark decision to begin normalising relations with Cuba has major implications for the cruise, ferry, cargo vessel and port sectors.
In a special address on 17 December, Obama announced "historic steps to chart a new course" with Cuba, conceding that "decades of US isolation of Cuba have failed".
The ban on most US travel to Cuba remains in place, yet the new policy will grant general licenses to travellers in the 12 allowable categories under current law. This represents the first step in the process of facilitating "an expansion of travel to Cuba".
Import and export restrictions will be eased. US exports to Cuba will be opened up for "certain building materials, goods used by private-sector Cuban entrepreneurs and agricultural equipment for small farmers".
The ban on calls at US ports by vessels that have visited Cuba within the prior six months is also being eased. The new policy will "allow foreign vessels to enter the US after engaging in certain humanitarian trade with Cuba".
As previously reported by IHS Maritime, an end to the embargo would create numerous opportunities for the maritime community. For vessel operators, these include new cruise routes calling in Cuba and cruise ships being used as 'floating hotels'; new ferry services from South Florida; an increased market for US agricultural exports and other US goods; and new demand for building supply cargoes and project cargoes.
UBS analyst Robin Farley addressed the cruise potential in a new research note. "Cuba would represent a new itinerary with significant pent-up demand from American tourists and a lack of developed hotel infrastructure," she explained. "While Havana may not currently handle the largest ships, we believe operators would make the investment to build dockside infrastructure."
Development of new cruise terminals would not be the only potential effect for the port sector. Cuba has long been considered as the potential site of a major transhipment hub for container trades, assuming the embargo is ended. Already, PSA has made inroads in the Cuban port sector via its operation of the new terminal in Mariel.
* Notícia publicada al web d'IHS Maritime. Compartim aquestes primeres reflexions de l'impacte del restabliment de relacions entre els Estats Units i Cuba.