Spanish ferry company Balearia said on Friday it has been granted U.S. licences to operate a passenger service between Cuba and the United States, though it is waiting on final clearance from Cuban authorities.
"With the two [U.S.] licences, we are closer than ever to be able to be the first to join Cuba with the United States by sea," Balearia Chairman Adolfo Utor said in a statement. No such services have run since the United States imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1960.
Since Washington announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Havana last December, the treasury department has also issued ferry licences to at least two U.S. companies.
Trips to Cuba from Spain by government officials and business leaders have jumped this year as Spain rushes to make the most of what is becoming a more open economy on the Caribbean island.
Balearia has run a route from Florida's Fort Lauderdale and Freeport in the Bahamas since 2011 while in Spain it operates ferries to the Balearic Islands and in the Straits of Gibraltar.