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Port Everglades to explore cruise, export opportunities with Cuba

Port Everglades to explore cruise, export opportunities with Cuba
Marcia Heroux Pounds

More cruises and exports to Cuba? Port Everglades to explore
opportunities with Cuban officials

Port Everglades plans to sign an agreement with Cuba designed to
generate job opportunities locally and revenue for both the port and its
Caribbean counterpart, according to a letter by Port Director Steven
Cernak inviting business leaders to the signing on Jan. 26.

A delegation of Cuban government officials who are directly involved in
promoting trade and investment will be traveling to Port Everglades for
the invitation-only event.

Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Corp., Stonegate Bank of Pompano Beach
and other South Florida companies are on the invitation list, said Glenn
Wiltshire, deputy director of Port Everglades. Cuban officials will
include those from the Port of Mariel’s special development zone, inland
waterway and seaport.

The Port of Mariel, which opened in 2014, is a centerpiece of Cuba’s
trade and economic development ambitions. Located west of Havana on
Cuba’s north coast, it has the capacity to receive large containerships
that pass through the widened Panama Canal. Port Everglades has similar
expectations, as well as its own goals to deepen its navigational
channels and widen its entrance channel.

The meeting with the Cubans is an exploratory one that was begun before
American policies toward Cuba began to change, Wiltshire said. The
relationship will be “similar to what we have with sister seaports,
where we look for opportunities to grow business that is mutually
beneficial,” he said.

A memorandum of understanding “will put on paper general areas to
cooperate with them; all still within the framework of the [trade]
restrictions,” he added.

Despite a series of Obama Administration executive orders that allow
broader American business contacts with Cuba, the U.S. trade embargo
against the Communist island remains in force. It can be lifted only by
an act of Congress.

Wiltshire said Port Everglades expects primarily more cruise and export
opportunities for local cruise lines and business owners. He said Port
Everglades is one of several U.S. ports that the Cuban delegation has on
its itinerary.

On Tuesday, the 210-passenger Pearl Mist left Port Everglades for its
maiden voyage to Cuba. The ship operator, Pearl Seas Cruises of
Connecticut, received permission from the Cuban government in December
for its 10-night cultural voyages to the island.

Another example is Crowley Maritime Corp.’s twice-weekly cargo service
from Port Everglades to the Port of Mariel. That potentially could be
expanded, Wiltshire said.

Products that might be exported to Cuba include poultry, produce,
equipment and building materials, according to Port Everglades officials.

But South Florida economist J. Antonio Villamil said the timing for the
meeting — just days after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration as
president— may not be the best.

“This is not the time to be talking about trade and investment
opportunities when things could become much more restrictive under the
Trump Administration,” Villamil said. He noted that Trump’s nominee for
Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has told Congress that executive
orders signed by outgoing President Barack Obama — including those
liberalizing commercial contacts with Cuba — will be reviewed.

Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro announced the re-establishment of
diplomatic relations between the two nations in 2014, and both countries
reopened their respective embassies. In February of last year, a
bilateral arrangement restored scheduled air services between the U.S.
and Cuba.

Last May, the cruise ship Adonia made history leaving from Miami to
become the first U.S. ship in decades to dock in Cuba. In August,
JetBlue Airways became the first airline to begin commercial flights
between the United States and Cuba in several decades, leaving from Fort
Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and arriving at Santa Clara,
Cuba.

Since then, a number of U.S.-based airlines have commenced flights from
South Florida to a variety of Cuban cities.

mpounds@sunsentinel.com or 561-243-6650

Source: Port Everglades to explore cruise, export opportunities with
Cuba – Sun Sentinel –
www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-port-everglades-cuba-job-opportunities-20170117-story.html

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