Miami-based International Port Corp. said it’s the first U.S. company to open a staffed office in Cuba.
Several companies have received licenses from the U.S. government to start operations in Cuba since President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with the communist country yet they haven’t opened facilities yet. IPC Owner and President Larry Nussbaum said his shipping firm has leased warehouse space in Havana from the Cuban government and staffed it with six employees. The Cuban workers were hired by a Cuban government employment agency, which IPC pays.
“The opportunities are great. Cuba is open for business,” Nussbaum said. “Now we need the American legislation to make it legal for companies like mine to expand what we can legally do in Cuba.”
IPC first received a license to conduct shipments between Miami and Havana in July 2012 on humanitarian groups. It’s since expanded that to include commercial shipments and cargo for diplomatic purposes, both by air and sea, he said.
Having daily representatives in Cuba will help his company ensure shipments reach customers and go through customs properly, Nussbaum said.
“It’s a matter of properly respecting U.S. and Cuban law and building a relationship with them,” Nussbaum said.
Despite the restoration of diplomatic relations and the lifting of some travel restrictions, there hasn’t been a dramatic increase in shipments to Cuba because Cuba isn’t buying much from the U.S., Nussbaum said. The problem is the U.S. embargo restricts offering credit to Cuban purchasers of U.S. goods, so it’s not a competitive market, he said.
“The growth of my business is dependent on the U.S. making more activities legal,” Nussbaum said.
IPC was also the first company to obtain permission from U.S. authorities to offer passenger ferry service from Florida to Cuba. Other U.S. companies have since followed. However, Cuba has not approved passenger ferry service.
Brian Bandell, South Florida Business Journal
March 28, 2016