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Florida ferry companies get licenses to serve Cuba

Liz Gammon
The US has authorized at least four Florida ferry companies to serve Cuba. The Cuban government must still grant approval
In a significant development that may be encouraging to cruise operators, the US government has approved at least four Florida companies to operate ferry service to Cuba, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

One of the companies, Orlando-based United Caribbean Lines, is run by veteran cruise executive Bruce Nierenberg, who has been working on this business for years. His partner, according to a LinkedIn profile, is Alex Panagopulos, the Monaco-based founder of Arista Shipping.

The others, according to the Sun-Sentinel, are Airline Brokers Co. of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, run by Cuba travel veteran Vivian Mannerud; Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, whose managing partner is Leonard Moecklin Sr.; and Baja Ferries of Miami, whose executive team includes Joe Hinson.

The companies will be able to carry only those travelers authorized to visit Cuba under current US laws, including a dozen specific reasons approved by the US Treasury and Commerce departments in January. Among those reasons are family visits, education, religion, public performances, clinics, workshops and exhibitions. Such travel is authorized without first having to obtain a special license from the US government, as before.

Open travel is still not permitted due to the US trade embargo with Cuba.

And Cuban officials have yet to approve the ferry service.

According to United Caribbean Lines' website, the company has 'overnight ferry vessels with over 400 cabins and capacity for 1,500 passengers' and would start service in the fall.

United Caribbean Lines envisions sailing 'from major Florida ports such as the Port of Miami, Tampa Bay and Port Everglades. Our proposed schedule will have ships departing Florida at 6 p.m., arriving in Havana at 7 a.m. the following day. Ships will depart Havana at 6 p.m. and arrive in Florida at 7 a.m. the following morning.'

The Sun-Sentinel listed a fifth company that expects to get a license to serve Florida and Cuba. CubaKat hopes to get approval soon and would sail from the Florida Keys.


TAGS: government