In February the Alabama State Port Authority and the National Port Administration of Cuba signed a five-year cooperative agreement. The Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) between the Port of Mobile and the Cuban ports marks the first ports agreement signed on U.S. soil since 1959.
“We are seeing increasing demand for normalized trade between the United States and Cuba and it is our goal to foster relationships between the ports and their maritime communities to further changes in U.S. Cuban trade policy and facilitate improved ocean carriage services to the benefit of our shippers” said James K. Lyons CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority.
U.S. sanctioned trade between Alabama and Cuba principally include poultry and forest products. Under the MOU the two port authorities commit to collaborating in port and cargo marketing studies and strategies engaging in promotion and exhibition activities and sharing data to the mutual benefit of their respective seaports as allowed under governing law in both countries.
In October 2016 the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) eased the rule that prohibits a vessel that calls Cuba from entering a U.S. port within 180 days of its departure from Cuba. While the amendment may allow vessel operators to efficiently deploy their vessels and avoid the 180-day waiting period ocean carriers must nonetheless comply with all other U.S. restrictions in order to take advantage of the amended rule. Simply put ocean carries engaged in sanctioned trade between Cuba and the U.S. can take advantage of the 180-day rule waiver. In addition ships originating from worldwide ports and transiting through Cuba can take advantage of the waiver as long as the carrier does not load non-sanctioned cargoes bound for the U.S.