Key West Still Moving Forward On Ferry Service To Cuba

Nov 28, 2016

While the election of Donald Trump and the death of Fidel Castro have brought new uncertainty to U.S.-Cuba relations, the city that's closest to Cuba is still aiming for closer ties.

Key West once had regular ferry service to Cuba — and the city is moving forward with plans to renew that transit across the Florida Straits.

"I think that connection, or re-connection, between Key West and Cuba is something everybody would like to see," said Doug Bradshaw, the city's port director.

The city already owns and runs a terminal that serves ferries to Fort Myers and Dry Tortugas National Park. And it's drawn up plans that allow it to be used for international travel.

"It's looking to set up the ferry terminal just like an airport, with Customs and all the baggage checks and holding cells and a place to put fruits that come in, all kinds of things that the airport has," Bradshaw said.

Those plans are now under review by the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Converting the terminal would require gutting it and redoing the interior.

Bradshaw said several operators have expressed interest in running ferries between Key West and Cuba, and the city terminal could handle anything up to about 300 feet.

The federal review of the plans is underway — but the city will wait to see if anything changes before starting construction, said Key West Mayor Craig Cates.

"It's a wait-and-see now to see where the president goes," he said. "If he reverses all the changes that have been made, then we're probably back to square one and we'll put it on hold."