The state of Cuba and boating

As previously reported on Boating Industry, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and the possibility of lifting the trade embargo could have a major impact on the boating industry. However, as we noted in our features, lifting the embargo is a complicated process – even if everyone were on board with the idea – and it’s going to take some time.

Even so, I thought I would give a quick rundown on where we are with Cuba currently:

  • Full diplomatic relations were restored between Cuba and the U.S. in July, for the first time in 54 years. The U.S. removed Cuba from the “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list.
  • Americans have more leeway to travel to Cuba but general tourist travel is still illegal; Cuba received record 3.52 million visitors in 2015, up 17.4 percent from 2014.
  • The trade embargo remains in place through the Helms-Burton Act, which cannot be lifted through executive order.
  • Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced S. 491 – The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2015 last year.
  • Tom Emmer (R-MN) also introduced legislationH.R. 3238 – The Cuba Trade Act of 2015.

2016 is likely to be a big year for U.S.-Cuba relations, even if the embargo doesn’t lift (unlikely in an election year). The U.S. will announce further easing of Cuba restrictions on Thursday, March 17, and these measures are expected to include changes to make it easier for individual Americans to visit if they qualify under 12 authorized categories of travel, such as educational or cultural visits, as well as further loosening of trade and banking rules.

President Barack Obama is planning a visit to the island March 21 and 22; he will be the first U.S. president to visit the island since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. Both Klobuchar and Emmer will be in attendance.

The boating industry should keep a close eye on Cuba as changes continue to be slowly implemented, even if the lifting of the trade embargo is still far off. Cuba Boating is an interesting website for reading more about how boating pertains to current and potentially future relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Julie Balzano, export development director of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, will be speaking on a panel tomorrow for a session called “Cuba 2.0: Separating Fact from Fantasy About the Forbidden Island Nation” at the 3rd Annual USSA Superyacht Summit at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., furthering NMMA’s mission to keep its hand on the pulse of the current situation in Cuba.


  1. Thanks for the mention of my i am constantly updating “NEWs” . I just receieved Info from OFAC with more changes. One of the big changes is that travel agents will no longer require a license from OFAC to book travel to Cuba. For those of you who haven’t traveled to Cuba yet, I would suggest you first travel to Cuba before taking your boat over. I would spend a couple of nights in Havana just to see the city and then take a taxi to Hemingway Marina. While there please join the Hemingway International Yacht Club and meet with Commodore Escrich who has been the champion of boating tourism in Cuba ifor years. The membership is not expensive and your membership fee goes to promoting boating in Cuba. Then I would go to Varadero which is now the hottest destination in Cuba. The Gaviota Marina has a lot of modern slips with plenty of power and some excellent hotels. Tania is the marina director and is an excellent host — tell her I said hello. By the way they also have a big repair facility there. You will love Cuba and the Cuban people.

  2. If you would like accurate, up to date information on Cuba, consider joining my Facebook group
    We have members who live in Cuba, ex pats living in the US with superb connections back home for information you might want or need, and a great many people cruising there right now who post regularly to the group.
    There is probably no better source of online information for Cuba, because you’re getting the information from people who are there, and know what they are talking about.

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