MAY 12, 2015 — Spain's Balearia Group has applied to the U.S. Treasury Department for a license to operate ferry service between the U.S. and Cuba. It is not one of the five companies that have already received the necessary license from OFAC, Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (see earlier story) and says it is awaiting an official response from the U.S. government, and the subsequent authorization from the Cuban government
The company has operated in the Caribbean region since late 2011 under the brand Bahamas Express, connecting Fort Lauderdale and Freeport (Grand Bahama Island). The route is now run using the ferry Bahama Mama (formerly called Alhucemas). Previously, the fast ferry, Pinar del Rio, which still remains in the area operated, on the route. This high-speed vessel "is ideal for the Cuba routes," says Adolfo Utor, President of Balearia, who adds that the ship has all the certificates required by the U.S. Coast Guard to start operating.
For its connections with Cuba, Balearia would operate two lines between Florida and Havana Port: one with a high speed vessel from Key West, and a second with a ferry from Port Everglades. The company transported more than 130,000 passengers, between the U.S. and the Bahamas in 2014, an 18% growth compared to the previous year. It has a new route planned for this year from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau.
"Our service to the Bahamas is now established and therefore we are ready to open new connections and markets in the area that will allow us to grow," says Mr. Utor.
Balearia Group says one of its strategic pillars is internationalization as the basis for business strength and stability.
Besides the Caribbean, it has a route to Tangier from Algeciras, Spain, and billings for international traffic now account for 15% of the group's total. Its target is to reach 50% in five years. To accomplish this, it is considering opening new lines in other Caribbean areas, such as Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
The company has a fleet of 23 ships and provides work to approximately 1,000 employees