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Diplomatic delight and commercial caution

As Caribbean leaders weigh up effects of US-Cuba detente

December’s historic announcement that the United States and Cuba were taking steps to normalize relations was warmly welcomed across the Caribbean and has profound and positive implications for the region.

It’s still too early to appreciate the full implications of the Obama-Castro agreement and there are many loose ends to be tied. Expect some bumps along the way as these two great nations work out how best to repair the damage caused by over 50 years of animosity.

How the US-Cuba rapprochement will affect the region’s maritime and tourism sectors – especially in regard to cruise shipping – it is too early to say.

For the time being, carriers operating out of south Florida are likely to be the first to adjust to changing circumstances.

Role of Mariel

There is also the question of what role Cuba’s recently enlarged and refurbished port of Mariel – run by Singapore’s Global Ports Management – might play in an increasingly crowded container transshipment market post 2015 and following the enlargement of the Panama Canal.

In the longer term, it will be interesting to see how Cuba shapes up as a cruise destination. It already is, of course. Official sources in Havana indicated that around 200 cruise ship calls were scheduled for winter season 2014-15. So, even with the US ban on its nationals visiting the island for the purpose of tourism, Cuba is popular.

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