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Sans Trade With U.S., Supply Chain Questions Remain For Cuba’s Transshipment Hub

The Trump Administration has yet to determine its policy toward the Communist Caribbean nation
By Patrick Burnson
April 11, 2017

At this time last year, U.S. seaports in Southeast and Gulf regions were telling shippers that they were well positioned to take advantage of trade with Cuba as restrictions were gradually lifted.

The election of populist President Donald Trump, may have altered those plans, however, as the new leadership team has yet to determine its policy toward the Communist Caribbean nation. 

Prior to embargo initiated by the Kennedy administration over nearly 50 years ago, the ports of Mobile, Tampa, Miami and New Orleans were all major entrepots for this lane of waterborne commerce. Shippers attending the recently concluded “Critical Cargoes Conference” in New Orleans were told that when and if trade is resumed, the Cuban port of Mariel will be ready.

“We are prepared to become the newest transport hub for the America’s,” declared Charles Baker, president and CEO of the Port of Mariel. “Our position as a transshipment center is also viable.”

Baker said he envisions the three-year-old container facility on the northwest coast of Cuba, 26 miles west of the capital city of Havana, as the “new transport hub for the Americas” in “a very, very good location for a transshipment hub.”

Total container throughput at the Port of Mariel grew from about 160,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in 2014, noted Baker. This was its first year of operation following end of container traffic at the relatively shallow Port of Havana, to 330,713 TEUs in 2015 prior to reaching 325,319 TEUs in 2016.

“The Mariel’s current annual throughput capacity is 800,000 TEUs, with future expansion to boost that number to 3 million,” he said.

Under the current U.S. embargo requirement vessels must wait 180 days after leaving a Cuban port before calling at a U.S. port. Baker considers this a major handicap, calling it Mariel’s “achilles heel.”

“We would like to see Washington officials address this so that we may move on and welcome a new era of business,” he said.


About the Author

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Patrick Burnson
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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