U.S.-Cuban ties could be boon to marine industry

After 54 years of animosity, the United States and Cuba formally restored diplomatic ties.
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After 54 years of animosity, the United States and Cuba formally restored diplomatic ties.

This morning, the United States opened an embassy in Havana and Cuba opened an embassy in Washington, D.C.

In truth, both countries had for years already been running robust interest sections in both capitals. Today, however, both of those missions were upgraded.

This afternoon, the Cuban flag will be raised on the grounds of the Cuban Embassy in Washington for the first time since 1961, according to National Public Radio.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Havana to raise the American flag at the U.S. Embassy there at a later date.

Starting today, U.S. officials said, the Cuban government will pull back some of the tight cordon of security that had surrounded America's diplomatic mission in Havana and no longer will record the names of Cubans entering the building, according to CNN.

The Cuban and American heads of their respective interest sections will became charges d'affaires until ambassadors are named.

"A new stage will begin, long and complex, on the road toward normalization," Cuban President Raul Castro said in a televised address last week to the Cuban people. "Which will require the will to find solutions to the problems that have accumulated over more than five decades and hurt ties between our nations and peoples."

The National Marine Manufacturers Association recently announced a third and final exploratory trip to Cuba, set for December.

Cuba has 11 million residents, and if it were a U.S. state it would rank seventh in population, according to the NMMA. Cuba has 1,400 miles of coastline similar to the Florida Keys — if the Cuban Keys were superimposed on the Atlantic Seaboard, they would stretch from Miami to New York.

The NMMA said Cuba also has more than 100 freshwater lakes suitable for boating. Built by the Soviets from the 1960s through the 1980s, the 3- to 5-mile lakes irrigate rice fields and teem with largemouth bass. That means 95 percent of Cubans live within five miles of boating waters.

In December, NMMA export director Julie Balzano told Trade Only about the association’s second visit to the Caribbean’s largest island.

“If and when U.S. boaters would be allowed to go to Cuba by boat, I think probably there is enough infrastructure in place at the moment, though I think it would be basic for American boaters visiting Cuba,” she told Trade Only at the time. “I think they struggle a bit with fueling stations in marinas,” for example.

“Cuba, just the country itself, is struggling with infrastructure,” she said. “If tourism grows, they’re going to struggle with hotel occupancy and eateries. It’s still a challenge to get basic items in Cuba.”

The island, though, has a lot to offer boaters in terms of its beauty. “It’s lush and green and mountainous, and the waters are crystal-blue,” Balzano said.

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