US approves ferry services to Cuba

Obama administration approves start of ferry services between US and Cuba after more than 50 years

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The United States government approved the start of passenger ferry services to Cuba after more than 50 years on Monday.

US Treasury Department issued licences for at least four companies allowing them to start ferry services to Cuba.

Ferry services between the two countries had stopped in 1960 when the US started to impose an embargo on Cuba after Fidel Castro's coming to power.

The two countries have been working to normalise the relations recently after US President Barack Obama announced diplomatic relations to be resumed last December, and since then the officials from both countries held high level talks including a meeting between Barack Obama and Raul Castro last month.

"This is a further step in bringing Cuba and the United States closer together," said Robert Muse, lawyer of Baja Ferries, which received one of the issued licences.

Start of the actual services will take some time as the companies have to finish paperwork and approvals with other government authorities.

Cuba lies just 150 kilometres from the shores of Florida and there is a large Cuban minority in the US.

The move came about three weeks after Obama removed Cuba from US terror list, following his meeting with Castro in Panama.

After their meeting Obama described their discussions as “candid and fruitful” and Castro praised him saying Obama is “an honest man.”

Treasury Secretary’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said the decision did not mean a general lifting of travel bans on Cuba and licences were issued on a case by case basis.

"I can confirm that OFAC has issued certain specific licences for passenger ferry service, but we cannot provide additional details as to whom or how many," Hagar Chemali, a spokeswoman for the OFAC said.

TRTWorld and agencies