Virginia Port Authority Eyes Tighter Ties with Cuba
The Virginia Port Authority has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Cuban National Port Authority to evaluate commercial opportunities between the Port of Virginia and Cuba’s newly opened Port of Mariel Special Development Project.
The MOU establishes a platform for cooperation and information sharing aimed at developing links between Cuba and Virginia to support waterborne trade and investment, improve customer service, enhance collaboration to achieve improved business practices, and increase the level of vessel services available between the two entities.
Under the deal, the two port authorities may undertake initiatives including data interchange, market studies, training and technological interchange.
“This agreement will enhance Virginia’s trading relationship with Cuba and supports our efforts to build the new Virginia economy,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announcing the deal.
“Virginia enjoys a uniquely productive economic relationship with Cuba, and this MOU will generate additional opportunities for economic and cultural exchange.”
Cuba’s $1 billion port project will make Mariel the largest port in the Caribbean, with a capacity to handle approximately 1.3 million shipping containers a year. It will also allow Mariel to serve as a trans-shipment hub for the region.
According to Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, the agreement will help position Virginia to provide container service for agricultural products such as poultry, pork and apples, which are shipped in refrigerated containers.
“Last year, Cuba purchased $25 million in agricultural exports from Virginia, all in bulk shipments,” he added.
“Despite Virginia’s export success to Cuba, there is currently no direct container service between Virginia and Cuba,” said Tom Capozzi, Chief Sales Officer of Virginia International Terminals.
“Our agribusiness companies that ship products in containers could benefit from enhanced cooperation between our port terminals and the Port of Mariel, especially as Mariel becomes an important trans-ship service provider for the region.”
While the trade mission to Havana yielded a series of positive results, Governor McAuliffe noted that the full potential of opportunities with Cuba will never be realized until the U.S. embargo against Cuba is ended.