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Ferry operator Balearia gets US nod to serve Cuba

Ferry operator Balearia gets US nod to serve Cuba
By Doreen Hemlock
Sun Sentinel

– Port Everglades one step closer to offering ferry service to Cuba
– Ferry company Balearia gets U.S. Commerce approval for Cuba service

The Spanish company that operates ferries from Fort Lauderdale to the
Bahamas is one step closer to adding service to Cuba.

Spain’s Balearia said it received approval from the U.S. Commerce
Department to operate ships between Florida and Cuba. It also expects
authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department “in the coming weeks” to
carry passengers between the two neighboring nations, a news release said.

Pending approval from Cuba, ferry service between the U.S. and Cuba
could start as soon as fall, attorneys familiar with U.S.-Cuba business
have said.

Balearia has been offering fast ferry service between Port Everglades
and Freeport on Grand Bahama Island since 2011 under the brand name
Bahamas Express.

For Cuba service, it plans to operate two routes to Havana: a high-speed
vessel from Key West and a ferry from Port Everglades, the news release
said. No further details were specified.

U.S. authorities in May licensed at least six companies to offer ferry
service to Cuba, the first such approvals in five decades. Ferry service
had been cut amid tensions between the two governments. It is being
restored in line with restoration of diplomatic ties between the two
neighbors.

The ferry companies plan to offer trips that cost less than charter
flights and allow more baggage free. Many Cuban-Americans haul down
hefty supplies for family homes and new private businesses.

Also licensed are Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, Baja Ferries
of Miami, United Caribbean Lines of Greater Orlando, Airline Brokers Co.
of Miami, America Cruise Ferries of Puerto Rico and International Port
Corp. of Miami, among others.

The U.S. embargo on Cuba still bans Americans from leisure tourism in
Cuba. But Americans can visit the island for 12 categories of
“purposeful” travel including family visits, government business,
professional research, performances, plus educational, religious and
humanitarian activities.

Balearia is looking to serve Cuba as part of a broader international
expansion.

This year, the company expects to transport more than 130,000 passengers
between the U.S. and the Bahamas, up 25 percent from last year. It
estimates that revenues from international operations in the Caribbean
and Mediterranean regions will account for about 15 percent of its total
business.

In five years, Balearia aims to derive about 50 percent of its revenue
from international business, perhaps including Puerto Rico-Dominican
Republic service as well, the company said.

Balearia now has 23 ships and employs more than 1,000 people worldwide.

dhemlock@sunsentinel.com, 305-810-5009, @dhemlock on Twitter

Source: Spain’s ferry operator Balearia gets US nod to serve Cuba – Sun
Sentinel –
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/tourism/fl-cuba-ferry-balearia-20150701-story.html

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