Passenger ferries can now run between Florida and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years after the U.S. government approved new services. Service has been stopped since the U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1960. A number of ferry companies say they have been given the new licences.
The move comes after Washington announced the restoration of diplomatic ties in December last year.
The latest announcement does not necessarily mean that boats will start launching for Cuban shores immediately, as there are still other bureaucratic hurdles to overcome in both countries.
President of the Miami-based United Americas Shipping Services Joseph Hinson called the move “a great step forward”.
He said that “if all goes smoothly we could have things up and running by September”.
Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said it also had a licence.
“This is a historical event. Thanks to President Barack Obama, to whom we are very grateful, for his leadership,” the company wrote on its Facebook page.
In addition to passengers, the ferries will also be allowed to transport cargo to Cuba, which sits just 90 miles from southern Florida.
A new charter flight service from New York City, operated by JetBlue, has already been announced.
The service was agreed during a recent trade delegation of New York-based companies to Cuba, led by governor Andrew Cuomo.
Despite the new flights and ferry services, a travel ban on Cuba is still in place for U.S. citizens and only those who have the right paperwork in 12 different categories are permitted to visit the island for the moment.