At Port Manatee meeting, ferry official touts service from Florida to Cuba

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 17, 2013 

PORT MANATEE -- An officer of a company that wants to operate ferry service between Florida and Cuba Thursday outlined his plans for the Manatee County Port Authority.

Leonard D. Moecklin, vice president of Havana Ferry Partners LLC, said that once legal obstacle posed by a U.S. embargo against Cuba are resolved, his company could operate fast ferries to the island nation.

Each one could carry 150 passengers, plus tons of cargo, he said.

"It's time to go to Cuba," he told the board.

The U.S. Treasury Department last year rejected Moeklin's attempt to offer ferry service during the visit to the island of Pope Benedict XVI.

Business opportunities would cross many economic sectors, including transportation, construction, tourism, real estate, automotive, food and clothing, and medical supplies, he said.

Port Manatee could be a hub for construction materials to be shipped to Cuba, where the whole infrastructure of the communist country needs rebuilding, Moecklin said.

As for the political change needed to accomplish such an enterprise, Moecklin said it's difficult when the two countries' governments are not speaking to each other.

The U.S. has maintained an embargo against Cuba for decades.

But he said change is coming, and Port Manatee could be in the forefront if it prepares now.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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