HAVANA (Reuters) – State-owned Dubai Ports World, which relinquished control over six U.S. ports in a political firestorm last year, is studying plans to build a container terminal in the Cuban port of Mariel, business sources said.
DP World agreed in early October to do a feasibility study to build a $250 million container terminal in Mariel that would start operating in 2012, a Havana port source told Reuters.
“A deal is in the works. It is moving forward and they have signed various agreements,” another person familiar with the plan told Reuters.
In Dubai, DP World spokeswoman Sarah Lockie said on Friday she could not immediately comment.
DP World became the world’s third-largest container port business last year when it bought Britain’s Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. But it was forced to sell P&O’s U.S. assets when the Bush administration came under fire for allowing an Arab-owned company to control U.S. ports.
Critics said the deal involving the ports of New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans posed a threat to U.S. national security.
P&O had planned for several years to rebuild Mariel port, 30 miles west of Havana on the north coast of the Caribbean island, and turn it into a modern container port.
The port of Mariel was the site of a massive boat lift in 1980, when a flotilla of vessels from Florida picked up 125,000 Cubans wanting to leave the Communist-run island.
Its strategic proximity to the United States makes Mariel an attractive investment looking ahead to a time when Cuba is no longer under a U.S. trade embargo, given limited port capacity in the United States, one source said.