ABOVE Port Authority CEO Jimmy Lyons, right, shakes hands with Cuba’s Rene Rolando Fernandez de Lara Cabezas.
Southeastern U.S. ports have been courting normalized Cuban trade for more than a decade, and that continued last month, regardless of new management in the Oval Office, as the Alabama State Port Authority and the National Port Administration of Cuba signed a five-year, cooperative agreement.
The pact, signed at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel in Florida, marks the first ports agreement signed on U.S. soil since 1959. Jimmy Lyons, CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority, and Rene Rolando Fernandez de Lara Cabezas, director of Inland Waterway and Sea Transport of the Republic of Cuba Ministry of Transportation, acknowledged mutual interest in facilitating trade growth and promoting all water carrier services between Asia, Europe, Latin America and the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“We are seeing increasing demand for normalized trade between the United States and Cuba, and it is our goal to foster relationships between the ports and their maritime communities to further changes in U.S. Cuban trade policy and facilitate improved ocean carriage services to the benefit of our shippers, ” Lyons says.
U.S.-sanctioned trade between Alabama and Cuba principally involves poultry and forest products. Cuba and Mobile will now conduct port and cargo marketing studies and strategies, engage in promotion and exhibition activities and share data to the mutual benefit of their respective seaports as allowed under governing law in both countries.
In October 2016, the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control eased the rule that prohibits a vessel that calls on Cuba from entering a U.S. port within 180 days of its departure from Cuba. Ocean carriers engaged in sanctioned trade between Cuba and the United States can take advantage of the 180-day rule waiver and ships originating from worldwide ports and transiting through Cuba can take advantage of the waiver as long as the carrier does not load non-sanctioned cargoes bound for the U.S.
ZIM Integrated Shipping Ltd provides bookings between the Port of Mobile and the Port of Mariel, Cuba.
Text by Dave Helms