Cork offers exclusive shipping route to Cuba

Irish companies will be looking to do business with a US-approved Havana...

Cork offers exclusive shipping route to Cuba

Workers landscape the area near a new port under construction in Mariel, 2013. Picture by: Franklin Reyes / AP/Press Association Images

Danish shipping titan Maersk has opened a direct connection between Cork and Cuba.

On Friday, the route to the Cuban port of Mariel became the first ever shipping connection between Northern Europe and the Caribbean country.

The service will also link ports in Bremerhaven, Germany; Rotterdam, Netherlands; and Tilbury in the UK to Mariel, a port approximately 40km from Havana. It will then go on to Panama. I

The route will offer the fastest transit times in the market and include a weekly service to the island's second largest city, Santiago de Cuba.

Full details will be announced in the coming days.

The new shipping route should prove incredibly advantageous to Irish companies looking to capitalise on the strengthening relations between the US and Cuba, as economic sanctions on the latter come to an end.

For a number of years, the Cuban Business Gateway, an Irish consultancy that aims to smooth the way for firms looking to operate in the Caribbean, has been making the point that sanctions shouldn't deter Irish businesses.

Indeed, bilateral trade in goods between Cuba and Ireland was €1.35 million in 2013, with diplomatic links between the two nations having been established in 1999.

In 2014, Ding's acquisition of RecargasaCuba, a website that offers mobile top-ups to Cuba, made the Dublin-based firm one of the world's largest mobile phone top-up providers.

Ireland currently sends some 7,000 tourists to Cuba each year.