BY LISANKA GONZALEZ SUAREZ ― Granma International staff writer―
As a result of the sale of the Spanish Pullmantur cruise line to the U.S. Royal Caribbean Cruise Corporation, Cuba has lost $16.89 million since the end of 2006 and 12,300 passengers have been prevented from visiting the island by the blockade
EVERY weekend up until October of 2006, the Holiday Dream anchored at the cruise liner terminal at Cuba’s capital city port as part of its Havana-Cancun-Isle of Youth-Jamaica itinerary. The docks were filled with the joy and music that characterizes the island and the passengers were received with hospitality from its inhabitants.
This all came to a sudden halt however toward the end of 2006 when the U.S. Royal Caribbean Cruise Corporation acquired all ships and aircraft belonging to the Spanish Pullmantur cruise line.
THE LONG ARM OF THE BLOCKADE
The message was clear for all the young Cubans working as crew members, “Cubans go home.” Chefs, bartenders, room help, waiters… none are eligible to work for a U.S. company whose government has prohibited commercial relations with the country. Two hundred and thirty jobs were lost and some individuals were forced to abandon ship in distant European ports.
The proprietors knew before the sale that the hysteria of the Bush administration would be unleashed against a country that in no way threatens the national security of the United States. The intensification of the blockade’s extraterritorial application was upon them. There is a long record of pressure on cruise companies, limiting their access to U.S. ports, sharpening the issue that first emerged over yachts. Club Med, Gasnaval, Naviera Murueta and others are examples. The long arm of the blockade reached them.
Cuba’s report to the UN General Assembly on Resolution 61/11 explains in one section: “This loss of employment represented a negative impact of $1,923,000 and the suspension of operations by the cruise line Holiday Dreams cost the island 12,375 visiting passengers, a decline in the various service industries linked to tourism and a cancellation of contracted catering services by Pullmantur and Iberworld led to a loss of $16,890,000.”
After the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, the Cuban fleet consisted of 160 vessels, mostly cargo ships, employing 5,000 sailors. During the 1990’s, however, with the disintegration of the socialist camp and the special period, regular repair of the already aging ships was halted, basic materials were lacking, technical difficulties ensued resulting in many ships no longer being seaworthy.
Given this situation, the Cuban merchant marine found itself obliged to initiate a new strategy for its workers, investigating the option of contracting the provision of services with foreign shipping companies, some of which had been done previously.
To that end the Cuban state established SELECMAR Ship Management,
a Transportation Ministry company with the objective of selecting, training, contracting and exporting technical-professional service providers for cruise liners, ferries, yachts, merchant ships, offshore oil platforms and related land operations as well as developing port services such as the management of ships and en-route repairs.
HIGHLY QUALIFIED CUBAN PERSONNEL