It is reported that a Palm Beach County yacht broker received a license issued by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") to operate a 78-foot yacht between the United States and Cuba. Paul Madden, a longtime luxury yacht broker with Paul Madden Associates LLC, reportedly received the license on July 1 and the vessel is already scheduled to carry and documentary filmmaker and a Wall Street Journal reporter, along with other passengers.
As previously reported in my blog, several other vessel operators have received OFAC licenses to operate to Cuba, including Carnival Cruise Lines. Cruise and ferry companies have applied for government licenses to sail to Cuba since the Obama administration restored diplomatic ties with Cuba and loosened rules for U.S. travel to the island. Carnival is the first cruise line to obtain a license, which plans to start service in May.
But the 78-foot yacht will reportedly be the first vessel to sail between the United States and Cuba in decades. The 4-cabin vessel received a research license from OFAC and the trip is being arranged by a New York educational tour guide, Academic Arrangements Abroad. An advantage to traveling by yacht rather than other forms of transportation, such as planes, is the provision of lodging and food without having to rely on the Cubans. Additionally, a yacht can offer secure Internet access, which is severely limited in Cuba. Furthermore, a smaller yacht can be accommodated within the shallow depths of most Cuban ports. Cruise ships will require much more infrastructure to operate.
Fifteen people are booked to sail from Key West to Marina Hemingway nine miles west of Havana on the historic 4½-hour excursion. Passengers will stay on the yacht, which reportedly plans to proceed afterward to Havana Harbor, Cuba's main port. The plan is for the tour to head back to Key West.
The biggest challenges to passenger services to Cuba is the lack of Cuban infrastructure. In addition, most marine insurers will not insure travel to Cuba, as it is generally outside of the navigational limits of most marine insurance policies.
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