While America, under President Donald Trump, heaps new sanctions on the island nation of Cuba — an extension of its historic Central and South American interventionist policies and Trump’s irrational behavior — China is taking a 180-degree approach … helping direct constructive projects that benefit the ordinary Cuban and help boost the economy.
One of those grateful Cubans is veteran welder Roberto Valdes-Pino, who came to the east end of Havana Bay on Wednesday, together with Havana’s 600 shipyard workers, to celebrate the occasion.
They were joining local officials and representatives from Chinese companies to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony for a modern Chinese-built floating dry dock delivered to Cuba on the day.
“This is a very big deal,” said Valdes-Pino, who was among those chosen to cut the ribbon for the highly anticipated arrival of the dry dock, which would boost the island’s shipping industry, Xinhua reported.
The dry dock, built in China’s Huarun Dadong shipyards and financed by a multimillion-dollar credit from the Chinese government, will be put into operation at the end of next year, to enhance Cuba’s capacity to build and repair ships.
Thanks to the dry dock, Cuba “will re-enter the international market, something that we lost a long time ago,” Cuba’s First Deputy Transport Minister Marta Oramas told Xinhua.
The new facility’s advanced technology will initially be used to renovate the national fleet, though it will also give the industry a competitive edge in the international market, she said.
The dry dock will be managed by Cuba’s state-owned Caribbean Drydock Company, and is the largest and most modern floating dry dock not only in Cuba, but throughout the Caribbean, the report said.
The 220-meter-long and 48-meter-wide dock can accommodate cargo ships up to 65,000 displacement tons, and was manufactured within 18 months and transported to Havana by the Xin Guang Hua ship, the world’s second largest semi-submersible heavy load carrier.
The 13,000 nautical-mile journey took two months, and crossed the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and the Caribbean Sea.
Chinese manufacturers of the dry dock certified the dock will be operational for at least 30 years, doubling the 15-year period established for paying back the credit.
“This is a token of the more than 20-year-long friendship between our company and the (Cuban) Ministry of Transportation,” said Yuan Yiping, general manager of the engineering department of the China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation.
The Chinese corporation is also in charge of delivering some 240 train cars to the island as part of Cuba’s railway renovation program, and the first 80 ones had already arrived in May, the report said.
“Ship building and repairs can increase foreign revenue and job opportunities in Cuba,” Yuan said.
Cuba’s shipping industry thrived in recent years, generating US$48-$50 million in annual revenues. It now can work on European, Chinese and Canadian ships needing repair, he said.
Late last week, the Trump administration announced yet another round of changes to its policies surrounding travel to Cuba, ending flights between the US and all cities on the Caribbean island other than Havana, Travel Pulse online reported.
Though some publications have described the new measure as having only a minor impact, the reality is that the ramifications of the latest changes are far more nuanced and far-reaching than the mere reshuffling it will trigger for airlines currently flying to cities all over the island.
As a result of the new policy, airlines will have a 45-day period to wind down flights to non-Havana destinations in Cuba, which currently includes Santiago, Varadero and Santa Clara, among others.
Those who will be most significantly impacted by the lack of flights are Cubans and their family members in the United States because it is visiting family members who most predominantly rely upon the routes to destinations beyond Havana, the report said.