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HAVANA: Coinciding with French president Francois Hollande's visit to Cuba, CMA-CGM has signed an agreement with Almacenes Universales S.A. (AUSA) to develop a new terminal facility at the container port of Mariel.

Mathieu Friedberg, head of the ocean carrier's logistics subsidiary said: "The platform of Mariel's is a first step in Cuba's land logistics development. It is also a new step in the acceleration of CMA CGM LOG's international development." The company recently acquired LCL Logistix, based in India.

Balearia 1The new venture with AUSA will form part of Mariel ZEDM - a new 4,600 hectares logistics and industrial project - and provide general and reefer warehousing, break-bulk, distribution and storage.

CMA CGM currently is one of only three shipping companies serving Cuba. This could change soon with the U.S. approval of Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale and Baja Ferries USA to provide service to Cuba following U.S. government moves to establish diplomatic relations with the country following a decades-long embargo.

Spanish operator Balearia, following an application to the U.S. Treasury for a similar license, could join the two short-sea companies and operate additional services between Florida and the port of Havana: one via high speed vessel from Key West and a second with a ferry from Port Everglades.

The company has operated in the Caribbean region since late 2011 under the brand Bahamas Express, connecting Fort Lauderdale with Freeport, Grand Bahama.

"Our service to the Bahamas is now established and therefore we are ready to open new connections and markets in the area that will allow us to grow," commented Adolfo Utor, Balearia president.

In addition to its route to the Bahamas, the carrier also serves Tangiers and Gibraltar from Algeciras, Spain and said it is "considering" new lines to Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic in order to boost its international revenue from 15 to 50 percent in the next five years.

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