Above: Havana, Cuba
By the Caribbean Journal staff
In a major step, the United States has begun approving licenses for a number of ferry companies to operate services between the United States and Cuba.
While a number of hurdles remain, from US coast guard approval of Cuban ports to Cuban government approval, the move could be a major step forward in transportation between the long closed-off neighbours.
For now, at least five companies have been approved for licenses, according to reports, including Baja Ferries USA and United Caribbean Lines, among others.
The United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control has not specifically identified all of the companies approved for licenses.
One firm, Airline Brokers Company, said it had first applied for a license in 1991 and now, 24 years later, had finally received approval.
Their license, for example, was granted for a term of just over two years.
Another company, CubaKat, which has been working on developing high-speed catamaran service, applauded the news on Facebook, although it has not yet received approval.
“This paves the way for Approved Service for Cubakat, hopefully very soon now,” the company said.
In another Cubakat comment, it said it was “looking like $169 per way,” for trips between Florida and Cuba, although it’s not yet clear what pricing would look like across the companies.
If and when such ferries become operational, there is still the ultimate hurdle: removing the embargo that makes travel to the island officially prohibited, except under a range of recently-expanded licenses, from journalistic trips to people-to-people tours.