Ports in Cuba brace for potential influx of ferries from the United States after the Obama administration approves Cuba ferry service licenses. Gavino Garay reports.
The changes may soon become visible in the loosening of U.S.-Cuba relations for the first time in over fifty years. Havana's port - which has been the docking point for many luxury European cruise liners over the years, may soon harbor vessels from the U.S. -- for the first time since 1960. The news comes after the U.S. Treasury Department confirmed that is had issued at least two U.S. companies ferry service licenses. On October 31, 1960, a Visnews cameraman captured the last ferry to depart Havana, not long after Fidel Castro's revolutionary forces overthrew Cuba's U.S.-backed dictatorship. The ferry was mostly loaded with over 100 cars belonging to diplomats, but few Americans - as many had already fled the island nation. Commodore Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich says this opens up opportunities. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) COMMODORE AT HEMINGWAY MARINA, JOSE MIGUEL DIAZ ESCRICH, SAYING: "This is going to facilitate the flow of visitors, at a lower cost and with a great chance of bringing the Cuban-Americans, their family members, products, merchandise, and of course it's going to reactivate maritime port activity in Cuba. The ferry existed many years ago and that now can start again with this measure, and reactivate activity as such." But there are restrictions - the ferries would only be allowed to carry licensed travelers to Cuba, including Cuban Americans visiting relatives, and Americans traveling for educational and cultural purposes. Under the current trade embargo, Americans are not allowed to visit Cuba on regular tourist vacations.