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Cuba’s Port of Mariel has already drawn investment interest from port operators and developers around the world. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS

Cuba’s Port of Mariel has already drawn investment interest from port operators and developers around the world. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS

HAVANA, march 30th (WJS) U.S. logistics executives who toured Cuba’s shipping facilities say the island nation has potential to be a key shipping hub for the region, but that heavy bureaucracy and poor infrastructure pose significant hurdles.

Officials from 18 logistics companies completed a trip to Cuba last Friday—coinciding with President Barack Obama’s historic visit to the island—in which they watched operations at the Port of Mariel and met with prospective partners, including ProCuba, an organization promoting foreign trade and investment in the country.

They said Cuba may be an ideal location for cross-docking, or re-sorting and distributing, cargo from large “post-panamax” ships to smaller vessels headed for U.S. ports. That could include ships from Asia with cargo bound for East Coast ports that aren’t equipped to handle the bigger ships, which can carry 14,000 or more twenty-foot-equivalent units, or TEUs, a standard measure for container cargo.

“Their location is absolutely perfect to be a hub…to push freight into northern Mexico, or all along the southern coast, and even up to our ports that don’t have that deep draft on the eastern side,” said Sue Spero, president of transportation brokerage firm Carrier Services of Tennessee Inc. Being able to get goods to market “a few days quicker is huge for us,” she said.

The logistics companies, in a trip organized by the Transportation Intermediaries Association, or TIA, joined other U.S. businesses that met with Cuban officials as the president visited the island nation.

The Obama administration viewed Mr. Obama’s trip as a critical market in its moves to normalize trade relations with Cuba after a 50-year trade embargo. Although the White House and Havana have opened the door to more travel, tourism and some business dealings, important limitations on trade in goods and services remain in place and would have to be removed by the U.S. Congress.

Members of the logistics delegation, organized by the Transportation Intermediaries Association, or TIA, said agreements such as a multimillion-dollar deal under way for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. to manage hotels in Havana will start a flow of goods across the Straits of Florida for the hospitality business.

American companies also are looking to export commodities, frozen foods and consumer goods to Cuba, said Robert Kemp, chief executive of Pennsylvania-based DRT Transportation LLC. “You’re talking about building a society for 12 million people that hasn’t been touched for 40 years,” he said. From construction materials to the consumer market, the possibilities are “endless,” Mr. Kemp said.

Mr. Kemp said it was clear from visits to cargo sites that Cuba needs big improvement in its transportation infrastructure. Local operators told the group that the easiest way to move freight 700 miles from one end of the island to the other is by sea, not truck or rail, he said. “The fact that it’s easier to put it on a boat tells all about the infrastructure that you need to know,” he said.

There are bureaucratic hurdles as well. Logistics companies must strike partnerships with local operators which are state-run, though a free-trade zone at the port allows investors to operate warehousing with 100% ownership, executives said.

Meanwhile, officials told the group they are keen on “preventing their cultural identity from being compromised,” said Ms. Spero, of Carrier Services. “They don’t want to seeStarbucks in the barrios of Havana.”

Still, the group found the Mariel port to have modern facilities, including the ability to handle refrigerated shipments and weigh truck entering or leaving the container terminal.

The port, which is under development by Singapore-based terminal operator PSA International, has attracted additional investment from container ship operator CMA CGM SA, which said last year it would build a logistics hub including warehousing.

havana-live-fl-msc-cruises-ocean-cay-island-20151217-001-92619896HAVANA, Dec. 21th (By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon)  MSC Cruises has announced plans to develop its own private Caribbean island experience in the Bahamas.

The company said it would be spending around $200 million on the project.

Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie and MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago have signed a 100-year lease agreement for the 95-acre island, which will be called Ocean Cay MSC Reserve and will offer, the line says, “an unprecedented exclusive marine reserve island experience in the Bahamas.” The line plans to break ground on the development in March 2016 and to open the island to guests in December 2017.

Over the next two years, MSC Cruises will work with the Bahamian government and ecologists to transform the former sand extraction station, located 20 miles south of Bimini and 65 miles east of Miami, into a marine reserve that will harmoniously coexist with the local ecosystem.

Plans for Ocean Cay include a berth and pier so that passengers can disembark straight from the ship to the island without tendering; a 2,000-seat amphitheater; a zipline; wedding pavilion; inland lagoon; and several restaurants and bars.

Passengers staying in the line’s premium-tier cabins, MSC Yacht Club, will have exclusive access to a spa and wellness sanctuary with private bungalows and massage huts on the northwest corner of the island.

A landscaping plan includes the planting of more than 80 indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs and a network of walking and biking trails. The line also says there will be an architecturally faithful Bahamian village; shops and an arrival center.

“This is a natural progression for our company, which is growing very rapidly, and we are thrilled about providing this totally new experience for our guests in the Caribbean,” said MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago.

Ocean Cay will be a port call on the itinerary of MSC’s Caribbean-bound ships, notably MSC Divina and MSC Seaside(which launches in December 2017) sailing out of Miami, as well as MSC Opera and MSC Armonia, which sail from Havana, Cuba. The line also announced plans to establish a crew training school in Nassau to provide local manpower for the growing number of MSC Cruises ships sailing the Caribbean.

havana-live-MSC OperaHAVANA,  July 3  MSC Cruises has announced it will become the first mainstream cruise line to home-port in Cuba with MSC Opera calling Havana home for the winter 2015-16 season.

The new itinerary will give holidaymakers from around the world the opportunity to visit Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico along with two nights and two and a half days in the Cuban capital. A total of 16 Caribbean cruises will be on offer.

Gianni Onorato, Chief Executive Officer of MSC Cruises, said “We are particularly proud to make this exciting new destination available to our guests. For this, I wish to personally thank all those who worked with us over the past several months to make it possible for MSC Cruises to launch Cuba as a destination to its guests.

In particular, I wish to thank the Ministers of Transportation and Tourism of the Cuban Government and their representatives for their continued, highly professional contribution.
The move to Cuba proves our commitment to offer our guests and holiday-makers the best and most sought-after destinations as they become accessible – thus further enhancing our global offering while providing travellers best-in-class experiences and service.”

The sailings, which will be available to book from Thursday 9 July, will be available to UK passengers on a cruise-only basis.

The first cruise will depart from Havana on 22 December 2015, following MSC Opera’s Grand Voyage to Cuba from Genoa, departing on 2 December 2015. The Grand Voyage will include a call in Havana on 18 December, and resume its itinerary in the region before heading back to Cuba for its final call of the journey on 21 December. On 12 April 2016, the ship will leave Havana for a Grand Voyage back to Europe, with Warnemünde, Germany, as its final destination, arriving on 7 May 2016.

During the two-and-a-half-day stay in Havana, passengers on the 2,120-passenger MSC Opera will be able to explore the city’s stunning old centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and discover its history, culture and architecture.

As a result of this announcement, MSC Opera’s original winter 2015-16 schedule in the Canary Islands, Madeira and Morocco has been cancelled. UK guests who had already booked a Canaries sailing for winter 2015-16 will now have the opportunity to receive a full refund or transfer their holiday to alternative MSC Cruises Mediterranean itineraries, with the offer of upgrades or on-board credit as compensation.

Alternatively, guests can switch their booking to Cuba with a low rate fixed fee to account for the difference in flight costs.

http://www.worldofcruising.co.uk/msc-cruises-to-home-port-msc-opera-in-havana-cuba-in-december-2015/