US lifts ban on ferry service between Florida and Cuba
The US Government has approved ferry services between Florida and Cuba, resuming the operations after a hiatus of more than 50 years.
The decision has been made in conjunction with US efforts to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba. In 1960, ferry services between the two countries stopped as the US imposed a trade embargo on Cuba.
At least four ferry operators have received approval from the US Treasury and Commerce departments to re-start their services.
United Americas Shipping Services president Joseph Hinson was quoted by Reuters as saying: "Today's action was a great step forward.
"If all goes smoothly we could have things up and running by September."
United Caribbean Lines said it will offer a ferry service to Cuba from Florida starting later this year. The company said it will sail from major Florida ports such as the Port of Miami, Tampa Bay and Port Everglades.
Ferry operators will be able to offer services that are less expensive than charter flights, which currently cost around $460 for a round-trip and have high fees for excess baggage.
However, Americans will not be able to travel Cuba without meeting certain criteria, as the travel ban on Cuba is still in place for American citizens.
Ferries will be allowed to carry only authorised US travellers to Cuba, which includes 12 categories of people who no longer need a licence in advance, such as family members and those performing religious and educational duties, Sun Sentinel reported.
Companies that gained approval to deliver ferry services are Havana Ferry Partners, Baja Ferries, United Caribbean Lines Florida and Airline Brokers.