Florida businesses have been planning, largely in secret, for the lifting of the U.S. embargo for decades. Among the potential opportunities:
A Boon to Ports
Cuba lacks warehouses that could accommodate widespread shipping. That means importers would need to send smaller and more frequent shipments from nearby ports. Miami would seem to be the best fit for proximity, but larger ports in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville will offer competition, as well as the nation’s largest port in New Orleans.
Shipping and Cruises
The Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 forbids any shipping or cruise vessel that has traded goods and services in Cuba from visiting a U.S. port within 180 days. An easing of that restriction would allow major cruise and shipping companies to add stopovers in Cuba. First, though, the Cuban government would need to show interest, since Fidel Castro in 2005 turned away most Cuba-bound cruise ships after complaints of trash.
All of Cuba’s basic utilities — including electric, water and sewer — rely on decades-old grids that would likely see an entire overhaul after the embargo. The electrical grid especially has suffered from a lack of upgrades and hurricane damage, with blackouts 125 days a year, according to a University of Miami study. Roads, ports, and airports also haven’t seen much construction since the Soviets pulled funding for the island two decades ago.
After the embargo, U.S. companies will seek contracts to run services in Cuba. But that business prospect is fraught with questions, especially since Cuba unexpectedly canceled a contract with an Italian company to run the port in Havana. International companies have also had little success challenging the details of contracts in Cuban courts.
Cuba’s 1950s-era vehicles make great photo ops, but a post-embargo run on new cars would be a boon to the port in Jacksonville, already a major hub for imported vehicles.