The U.S. government has given the go-ahead for cruisers waiting permission to run a ferry service between Florida and Cuba, another step toward normalization of relations after Washington announced the restoration of diplomatic ties last December.
Ferry services between the two countries stopped when the U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1960.
The Treasury Department has reportedly issued at least four licenses to companies that want to establish a ferry service to Cuba. In a press release, the International Port Corp (IPC) confirmed that it has received permission to launch a ferry service.
The IPC made history on July 11, 2012, with the first vessel that sailed directly from Miami to Havana in over 50 years. “Arrangements are currently being made with Cuban authorities to establish all protocols in Cuba for direct passenger service,” the company stated.
At least half a dozen Florida companies are seriously considering ferry ventures. Miami-based United Americas Shipping Services and Key West Express are also among the firms that applied for a license to launch ferry services to the island.
Some analysts believe that U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff may have difficulties in apprehending illegal immigrants who try to sneak into U.S. territory. Reports indicate that monitoring ferries may prove more difficult than monitoring charter flights.
Ferries were the most popular mode of transport between the two countries until 1960, when Fidel Castro took power, leading the United States to severe all ties with the communist state.
Over the past six months, President Obama has worked hard to thaw relations with Havana. However, Americans still cannot visit Cuba without permission. Those who do not need to seek special permission include journalists, Cuban-Americans visiting families, and officials on government visits.