In the wake of President Barack Obama’s history-making visit, the US has taken yet another step toward normalizing relations with Cuba by removing Conditions of Entry on vessels arriving to the US that had visited Cuba in their last five port calls.
Conditions of Entry related to Cuban ports were originally imposed in 2008, under a set of rules designed to fight terrorism.
The US Coast Guard announced this week that after a comprehensive assessment, it has removed the island nation from the list of countries deemed to have insufficient security in their ports. Based on port assessments conducted in February 2016, Cuba’s ports have been deemed to meet the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code requirements established by the International Maritime Organization.
As a result of the change, effective March 22, 2016, US cruise ships, cargo ships, ferries, and other vessels will be able to travel back and forth to Cuba without being subject to mandatory boarding or inspection by the Coast Guard. While random inspections will still take place, the change is expected to make sea travel between the US and Cuba much faster and easier. This rule change also eliminates the vexing Security Level 2 plan.
Miami maritime attorney Michael Moore commented on this latest development as, “Yet another step in the right direction. Maritime commerce, and in particular the passenger trade, allows people to visit Cuba without causing further stress to Cuba’s infrastructure. Our clients are thrilled, geared up and ready to commence service.”
Thanks to the recently relaxed travel restrictions put in place by President Obama, American tourists are chomping at the bit to visit Cuba in the next few years. And several major cruise lines are already lining up to take them. Industry giant, Carnival, already has gained US and Cuban regulatory approval for its Fathom cruise brand to launch its maiden voyage later this year. Fathom’s first voyage is in May of this year.