Crowley Maritime’s weekly container service to Cuba later this month will begin calling on the island’s newest terminal, instead of Havana.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based container line will begin calling on the port of Mariel — part of Cuba’s $600 million bid to become a transshipment hub — on Jan. 26 from Port Everglades, Fla. Crowley on Dec. 16 marked its 12th year of container service to Cuba. Thanks to a 2000 easing of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, allowing the shipment of agriculture commodities, medicine, medical devices and other humanitarian goods, Crowley can provide service to the island.
The Mariel terminal, operated by Singapore-based PSA, will have an annual capacity of 1 million 20-foot-equivalent units when fully built out by 2022. At full capacity, Mariel will be able to handle nearly three times as much container traffic as the port of Havana. The country’s largest port, which is about 28 miles east of Mariel, can’t expand unless it knocks down historic quarters in the capital city.
The 2,300-foot dock terminal, equipped with four container terminals, is centrally located in the Caribbean, making it an ideal transshipment hub for regional ports unable to handle the large vessels able to pass through the Panama Canal. The ships passing through the canal will be even larger when the $5.25 billion expansion, expanding the locks’ vessel capability from 5,000-TEU ships to 13,000-TEU vessels. When the canal project will be finished has been complicated by a dispute between the Panama Canal Authority and a Spanish consortium responsible for building new locks.
But Mariel’s largest transshipment potential could likely only be achieved if the U.S. ends or dramatically eases its embargo against Cuba. Proponents of such a move see encouraging signs in comments recently made by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, but nothing tangible has yet been proposed.