Raul Castro, Lula da Silva tour Mariel Port facilities
Havana, Jan 31, (RHC), – Cuban head of state, Raul Castro and visiting former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva toured the ongoing expansion works underway at Mariel Harbor in the eastern part of the island, which are co-financed by Brazil.
Raul Castro described the works as the most complex project ever carried out in Cuba, as both Latin American leaders toured the harbor that is expected to become the island’s main foreign trade hub.
He said that the Mariel harbor is not only strategic for Cuba but also for the region and he referred to the country’s efforts towards a comprehensive reform of the Cuban economic model.
The Port of Mariel Expansion, when it becomes operational, will allow Cuba to have one of the largest ports in all Latin America and the largest trading hub in the Caribbean.
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, in tune with the ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal in 2015, which will favor maritime trade in the Caribbean area.
The work at Mariel is being undertaken by Brazilian engineering giant Odebrecht in partnership with the Cuban military’s construction division. The Brazilian government is also underwriting the port development.
Raul Castro and Lula da Silva were presented with a photographic album of the project depicting different construction stages. The harbor strategy is considered a paradigm of cooperation and landmark contribution to Latin American and Caribbean integration.
Lula told reporters that the works are advancing at an extraordinary pace and that he hopes the harbor contributes to Cuba’s development, particularly to the setting up and development of an important industrial zone.