Cuba reopens airport talks

Varadero International Airport

CUBA STANDARD – Cuba’s Ministry of Transport (Mitrans) is in negotiations with a joint venture to manage and develop several of the country’s international airports, official media reported.

According to a report by Cuban news agency ACN the talks include the airport serving Varadero — Cuba’s second-busiest — and those in Santa Clara and Cayo Las Brujas. The name of the joint venture was not mentioned.

A management and marketing agreement with a foreign corporation for gastronomic services at the Havana airport terminals is already in place, according to the report.

In 2016, talks with a consortium of French construction giant Bouygues Bâtiment and Aéroports de Paris (ADP) about modernizing and doubling the size of José Martí International Airport in Havana led to no results. The main obstacle, according to close observers at the time, were financial guarantees Cuban authorities were unwilling to grant.

At the Havana International Fair (FIHAV) in November, contracts were signed for the leasing of aircraft from foreign companies for domestic operations, as well as other contracts for the insurance of cargo, baggage and aviation fuel, the Ministry of Transport confirmed, according to the ACN report.

Much of Cuba’s fleet of Russian and Ukrainian-made short- and medium-range passenger jets has been grounded, due to lack of maintenance and spare parts. In 2019, Cuba obtained the first western-made passenger airplanes since 2002, when it took delivery of the first of two freshly assembled turboprop ATR 72-600 from Franco-Italian manufacturer ATR Aircraft. 

According to ACN, Mitrans is negotiating several projects with foreign companies; others are already being implemented. The goal is to attract the largest amount of foreign currency possible to increase and improve services to the population, as well as infrastructure and logistics of facilities and transportation, ACN writes. Cuba’s transportation sector is one of the hardest hit by the country’s acute economic crisis, which has been exacerbated in recent years by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and U.S. sanctions.

State company Organización Superior de Desarrollo Empresarial Gemar has tendered foreign investment projects for the transportation and delivery of parcels and packages, another for the construction, operation and maintenance of a multipurpose sea terminal in the La Bajada area in the province of Pinar del Río, and a third joint venture for the management of the Cabañas Shipyard in the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM).

Grupo Empresarial Automotriz has tendered a project for warranty services, technical support and after-sales services for Hyundai vehicles, and another for a plant to manufacture, reconstruct, repair and maintain auto parts and components.

As for rail transport, a memorandum of understanding was signed at FIHAV in November between the Cuba’s national railway company and Chinese company Beijing Fanglian Technology Co., Ltd. for the purchase of parts and spare parts for Chinese locomotives under the “Modernization of Railway Workshops” project.

Solar panels for the five stations along the Havana-Mariel passenger rail route

A cooperation agreement was also signed with another unnamed foreign company for the installation of solar panels at the five stations along the Havana-Mariel passenger line. The photovoltaic panels, according to an announcement by state company Ferromar S.A., will have a capacity of 550 W each, covering the energy needs of the stations, platforms and lighting. The Cuban state-owned freight and passenger railway company Ferromar S.A. made an announcement to this effect in January. Ferromar S.A. is a 2021 company that transports freight and passengers between Havana’s Almendares station and the Mariel Special Development Zone.

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