Texas port signs Cuba pact

Texas port signs Cuba pact

Copyright 2003, Traffic World, Inc.

The Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, is hoping that a contract it signed on July 10 with Cuba will jump-start its plans to become more active in the container business. In addition, port officials say the deal represents the first strategic shipping agreement between Cuba and a U.S. port and that the act could help erode the longstanding U.S. embargo of Cuba.

"It's another very progressive step toward the ultimate abolition of an embargo whose time has long passed," said Port Commission Chairman Ruben Bonilla Jr. While Cuba has operating agreements with 11 other U.S. ports, the Corpus Christi agreement "is the first 'agreement on strategic work' that sets out plans for future activity," according to Pedro Alvarez, chairman of Cuba's food import agency, Alimport. The agreement calls for initial bulk shipments followed by development of refrigerator and container shipping.

Although the port is in the midst of a feasibility study looking at the potential of a new container terminal, a source at the port said, "We're not currently a factor in the container business but we want to be."

Bonilla said that Corpus Christi, America's fifth-largest port in terms of tonnage, hopes to take some of the business now going through Florida, which has a large population of Cuban exiles. The port stated that Bonilla thought it "curious" that while much of the population of Florida opposes normalized relations with Cuba, "they receive the economic benefit" of the embargo. Bonilla also said the port is "very hopeful that this step will ultimately lead to an opening of tourist opportunities."