Last updated: 09:32 AM ET, Wed May 06 2015

US Approves Select Ferry Service to Cuba

Destination & Tourism | Patrick Clarke | May 06, 2015

US Approves Select Ferry Service to Cuba

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For the first time since the U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Cuba more than five decades ago, select ferry service between the two countries has been approved.

According to the Sun Sentinel, four companies — Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, Baja Ferries of Miami, United Caribbean Lines Florida of Greater Orlando and Airline Brokers Co. of Miami and Fort Lauderdale — were given the green light by the U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments on Tuesday.

While the license approvals were confirmed by a U.S. Treasury spokeswoman, the aforementioned companies will also need approval from Cuba in order to commence operations. 

Nonetheless, Havana Ferry's managing partner Leonard Moecklin Sr. called it a "historical event in U.S.-Cuba relations."

"I think it's a further indication of the seriousness of the Obama administration in normalizing relations with Cuba," said Baja Ferries' attorney and U.S. law on Cuba expert Robert Muse via the Associated Press. "We're now going from the theoretical to the very specific."

Although Americans no longer need a special license in order to travel to Cuba, they still must be authorized under any one of 12 different categories, including family visits, among others.

But with accessibility and demand rising, the ferry companies plan to offer service between the U.S. and Cuba that would be cheaper than a charter flight and perhaps more convenient given passengers could transport more luggage without being charged extra fees.

As for what's next, Havana Ferry Partners aims to launch service between Key West and Havana within a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, Baja Ferries is hoping to begin overnight service to the Caribbean island possibly as often as three times a week.

For now, the U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments' approval signals a significant step toward regular ferry service between the U.S. and Cuba, potentially offering authorized travelers another means of access. 

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