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Posted March 27, 2012 by publisher in Cuba-US Trade

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Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

Recently, Havana Ferry Partners was denied permission to operate a passenger ferry to Cuba because the service was “outside the scope” of the OFAC regulations.

It appears that in order for any ferry service to Cuba to be approved, the ferry operator must operate from an officially designated port of entry/gateway as approved by OFAC. Today no US ports are approved to host a ferry service to Cuba.

Today, the Broward County Commission is holding a meeting and one of the items on the agenda is to request that Port Everglades be designated as a gateway for passenger ferry service between South Florida and Cuba.

Requested Action

Motion to direct Mayor to send a letter to United States Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control requesting designation of Port Everglades as an entry port/gateway for passenger ferry service between South Florida and Cuba.

Why Action is Necessary

Approval is required by the Board of County Commissioners (Board) for the Mayor to send a letter on the Board’s behalf.

Summary

In February of 1963, the United States Government imposed restrictions on travel between the United States and Cuba. This policy has continued until April 13, 2009, when President Barack Obama announced a lifting of restrictions by allowing Cuban-Americans to travel between the United States and Cuba to visit family members. For a seaport to be permitted to receive passenger traffic from Cuba, it must be designated by the United States Department of the Treasury as an entry port or gateway. Currently, only airports are designated as entry gateways. 

In October 2009, the Board authorized the Mayor to send a letter to OFAC (see below) requesting the designation of the Greater Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) as a gateway airport for passenger air service to Cuba and Port Everglades as a gateway seaport for passenger ferry service.  No formal response was received from OFAC, however, since that letter was sent, FLL was designated as a gateway and an air charter service currently flies to Cuba.

The Federal government has not yet designated any seaports to serve as entry gateway ports for service to Cuba. However, Port Everglades has been contacted by at least four different ferry operators that indicated an interest in operating a ferry service out of Port Everglades if the required license is obtained. 

While the current status of their efforts to obtain the required licenses are not known to Port Everglades staff, one of those operators received a letter from OFAC on February 27, 2012 denying their application to operate a passenger ferry service between South Florida and Cuba based on the application being beyond the scope of current policy.

Port Everglades already has the infrastructure, U.S. Customs and Border Protection presence, and security procedures in place to effectively handle a passenger ferry service. Several major marine ferry lines have expressed an interest in gateway status for Port Everglades. The Port also currently hosts a low cost ferry type service to the Bahamas. These types of ferry services would be beneficial for travel between Cuba and South Florida.

While it is uncertain when the Federal government will make the required policy determination, given that the last letter from the County was sent in 2009, staff recommends that an updated letter be sent to reinforce of County’s continuing interest in being the first U.S. port designated to operate passenger ferry service to Cuba (see draft letter below).

Port Everglades currently has weekly container cargo service to Havana, with Crowley Liner Service vessels leaving each Saturday for Sunday arrival in Havana. In Fiscal Year 2011, over 48,000 short tons of cargo were exported from Port Everglades to Cuba. The shipments to Cuba include foodstuffs and medicines authorized through licenses issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. 

Based on this, the Port Everglades Department believes that, if granted entry port/gateway status, a successful commercial passenger ferry operation will have the opportunity to develop and succeed in Broward County.

On April 17, 2007, the Board adopted Resolution 2007-233 relating to an International Trade and Investment Policy for Broward County that promotes the growth of international business, foreign direct investment, and increased trade activity. This item supports the intent of that Resolution.

Fiscal Impact/Cost Summary

While there is no fiscal impact associated with sending the letter, if Port Everglades is designated as an entry port, it will likely result in additional revenues associated with the new passenger and cargo services at the Port.

2009 Letter to OFAC

October 28, 2009

From: Stacy Ritter, Mayor, Broward County

To: Mr. Adam J. Szubin, Director OFAC

Subject: Request for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to be designated as an Entry Port for Air Service between South Florida and Cuba and for Port Everglades to be designated as an Entry Port for Passenger Ferry Service between South Florida and Cuba

Dear Mr. Szubin:

On behalf of the Broward County Aviation Department (BCAD), the operator of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood international Airport (FLL), and the Broward County Port Everglades Department, the Broward County Board of County Commissioners respectfully requests consideration for these entities to be designated as authorized ports of entry for flights and passenger ferry service to and from Cuba. This designation would provide travelers with an alternative, low cost port of access when traveling between Cuba and South Florida.

In the South Florida market, FLL is the location of choice for nearly all of the Low Cost Carriers. FLL’s low cost structure allows carriers such as JetBlue, AirTran, Southwest and Spirit Airlines to operate and compete. Because of this, international fares are significantly lower than they are at Miami International Airport.

The Low Cost Carriers at FLL can offer travelers an economical alternative to travel to Cuba that they might otherwise not be able to afford. In addition to low fares, ease of access, and central location in South Florida, FLL is presently expanding its Customs and Border Protection facilities which will double the capacity to process international passengers by the end of this year.

U.S. Census data from 2005-2007 indicates that there are more than 100,000 residents of Cuban descent in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Additionally, FLL’s catchment area includes Miami-Dade County and our data indicates that a significant portion of our travelers originate from there.

BCAD has been approached by a number of airlines to pursue gateway status for FLL. We believe that, based on this, FLL would be a successful and productive gateway to Cuba.

As one of the top three passenger cruise seaports in the world, Port Everglades already has the infrastructure, U.S. Customs and Border Protection presence, and security procedures in place to effectively handle such a passenger ferry service. Several major marine ferry lines have already expressed an interest in gateway status for Port Everglades. The Port also currently hosts low cost ferry type services to the Bahamas which handle both passengers and cargo. These types of ferry services would be beneficial for travel between Cuba and South Florida.

Port Everglades already has weekly container cargo service to Havana, with Crowley Liner Service vessels leaving each Monday, for Tuesday arrival in Havana. In Fiscal Year 2008, over 100,000 short tons of cargo were exported from Port Everglades to Cuba.

Draft Letter to OFAC

March 27, 2012

From: John E. Rodstrom, Jr. Mayor, Broward County
To: Mr. Adam J. Szubin, Director OFAC

Subject: Request for Port Everglades to be designated as an Entry Port for Passenger Ferry Service between South Florida and Cuba

Dear Mr. Szubin:

As a follow up to a letter sent by Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter on October 28, 2009, I would first like to thank you on behalf of the Broward County Board of County Commissioners
for designating Fort-Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as a gateway city for passenger air charter service to Cuba.

Thousands of South Florida citizens have been able to take advantage of low cost travel to Cuba from our airport as a result of that approval. Since no action has been taken on our separate request in that same letter to designate Broward County’s Port Everglades as a gateway seaport, I once again request that Port Everglades be designated as an authorized port of entry and gateway for passenger ferry service to and from Cuba. This designation would provide authorized travelers with a low cost alternative to air travel between Cuba and South Florida.

As the second largest passenger cruise seaport in the world, Port Everglades already has the infrastructure, U.S. Customs and Border Protection presence, and security procedures in place
to effectively handle such a passenger ferry service. The Port also currently hosts a low cost ferry type service to the Bahamas, which is similar to the type of ferry service that would operate between Cuba and South Florida. Port Everglades also has weekly container cargo service to Havana, with Crowley Liner Service vessels leaving each Saturday for Sunday arrival in
Havana. In Fiscal Year 2011, over 48,000 short tons of cargo were exported from Port Everglades to Cuba.

Several major marine ferry lines from throughout the world have contacted the staff at Port Everglades to discuss the requirements for operating such a service out of Port Everglades, and
I understand that a number of them have already applied for licenses to carry passengers by ferry to Cuba. I am also aware of at least one application that was denied by your office.

Recognizing that U.S. government policy on travel to Cuba remains under review, we remain ready to provide port facilities for the U.S. origin of such a ferry service once licenses are
approved.

Thank you for your consideration in this vitally important matter.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on April 06, 2012 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Approved

    VOTE:  8-1.  Commissioner LaMarca voted no

    Apparently he is a hard liner who is more pro-Embargo than pro-business.



    Cuba consulting services

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