Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
Yesterday I completed my tenth Panama Canal passage aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion. As we passed through Miraflores Locks, we gained a great perspective of the $5.25 billion Panama Canal Expansion—construction of two huge new lock complexes (one on the Pacific, the other on the Caribbean) to permit passage by today’s elephantine Post-Panamax ships.
The completion of the new locks, scheduled for early 2015, will permit passage by vessels carrying as many as 12,000 containers—three times the volume of today’s Panamax vessels (those built to pass through the 110-feet wide, 1,000-foot-long existing locks, which first opened in 1914).
Nobody wants to miss the boat. A race is on as ports throughout the Americas are rushing to expand, deep-dredge, and add infrastructure vital to stay competitive and lure a new generation of mega-size freight carriers.
Global shipping will change. And Cuba is keen to cash in on the new potential.
The first stage, expected to be completed in 2014, involves the construction of 700 meters of docks capable of handling Panamax vessels. Mariel will then be able to handle one million cargo containers annually. Eventually the deep-water port at Mariel will have a 2,000-meter (6,550-foot) dock capable of handling the jumbo Post-Panamax vessels and up to 3 million containers a year.
All industrial port facilities in Havana, which can handle 350,000 containers, will eventually move to Mariel. Havana’s port will be readied to accommodate more cruise ships and for recreational boating activity and other “tourist and eco-friendly uses,” according to the Cuban government.
The state-of-the-art port of Mariel—which is touted to become “the largest industrial port in the Caribbean”—will be managed by Singapore-based PSA International, a Chinese-owned company that also operates Panama’s ports.
The work at Mariel is being undertaken by Brazilian engineering giant Odebrecht in partnership with the Cuban military’s construction division (equivalent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). The Brazilian government is also underwriting the port development. (Last November, three Brazilian companies—including the world’s largest bus-body builder, MarcoPolo—signed letters of intent to open factories in Cuba, and added to Brazil’s existing $1 billion line of credit to Cuba.)
Meanwhile, highway and rail infrastructure is also being built to integrate Mariel to the rest of the country. (Cuba’s existing rail network is being upgraded, and fiber-optics are being laid.)
The new port will more efficiently handle the flow of imported and exported goods. The Cuban government also believes that Mariel is ideally situated to become a regional trading hub for ships destined for other ports throughout the Caribbean and the Americas (many of which have their own multi-billion-dollar port upgrade projects)… including for U.S. cargo when the U.S. trade embargo is eventually lifted.
Until then, the U.S. embargo is likely to keep Mariel from fulfilling its potential as a transshipment hub, as current U.S. law prohibits any ship that calls on a Cuban port from entering a U.S. port for 180 days.
For complete information on Cuba, buy Moon Handbook Cuba
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker.
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker