US allows ferry services to Cuba

First ferry services set to operate in more than 50 years, as relations improve between two countries.

    The presidents of the US and Cuba met in Panama City in April, marking a potential turning point in relations [Al Jazeera]
    The presidents of the US and Cuba met in Panama City in April, marking a potential turning point in relations [Al Jazeera]

    The United States has authorised commercial ferry services to Cuba for the first time in more than a half-century, in a major step in improving relations between the two countries.

    In what was hailed by ferry operators as an "historical event," the US Treasury on Tuesday lifted a decades-old ban and at least four Florida companies said they had been licensed to launch boat services to the island.

    That adds to the charter air services that had been permitted until now, focused on enabling Cuban-Americans to visit their families.

    The ferries will also be allowed to carry cargo to the communist island of 11 million, which sits just 150km off the southern tip of Florida.

    Four companies confirmed they had received licences from the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control to provide ferry travel.

    Operators suggested the first trip would still take some time, because other permissions were still needed from authorities in both countries.

    Turning point

    In April, the presidents of the US and Cuba met in Panama City, marking a potential turning point in US relations with Cuba and the region after a decades-old blockade.

    Barack Obama said after his meeting with Raul Castro that the discussions had been "candid and fruitful", and that a strong majority of citizens in both Cuba and the US would back warmer relations.

    "I think our ability to engage, to open up commerce and travel and people to people exchanges is ultimately going to be good for Cuban people," Obama said at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City.

    Castro had praised Obama as "an honest man" and said "every US president before him is to blame" for making Cuba suffer under long-held US sanctions.

    A normalisation of relations has seemed unthinkable to both Cubans and Americans for generations.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    Meet the deported nurse aiding asylum seekers at US-Mexico border

    Meet the deported nurse helping refugees at the border

    Francisco 'Panchito' Olachea drives a beat-up ambulance around Nogales, taking care of those trying to get to the US.

    The rise of Pakistan's 'burger' generation

    The rise of Pakistan's 'burger' generation

    How a homegrown burger joint pioneered a food revolution and decades later gave a young, politicised class its identity.

    'We will cut your throats': The anatomy of Greece's lynch mobs

    The brutality of Greece's racist lynch mobs

    With anti-migrant violence hitting a fever pitch, victims ask why Greek authorities have carried out so few arrests.