Most of the containers that came off a Crowley cargo ship Thursday afternoon were empty. Two of the containers that went back on the ship had lumber on them -- bound for Cuba. "This is another commodity that is approved to go there," port director Don Allee said. "It adds to the list of commodities that we move through here."
That list includes chicken and apples. They're sent from Gulfport to Havana on board the Crowley vessel, because it has permission to carry cargo in and out of the communist nation. That fact has made it easier for Port of Gulfport leaders to develop a trade relationship with Cuba. "It's no secret that Cuba needs building materials," Allee said. "They need to repair infrastructure. This being the first shipment in over 40 years I think is a great significance."
Right now, the Port of Gulfport is on pace to bring in more ships than any year in its history. Allee said the shipments to Cuba won't lure new ships here. But they will expand the Port's capability to send cargo all over the world. "It's demonstrating growth," he said. "Furthermore, it demonstrates the tremendous potential that the republic of Cuba represents when normalized trading relations are in effect."
Lumber is supposed to be exported from the Port of Gulfport to Havana, Cuba through the end of the year.
Lanahan Lumber out of Jacksonville, Florida actually negotiated the six month deal to send yellow pine to Cuba. Both the Port of Gulfport and a port in Florida are being used to export the lumber.