Gov. Scott includes “No Cuba trade” statement in budget released Tuesday

Crowley has been shipping goods to Cuba from Florida since 2001.
Crowley has been shipping goods to Cuba from Florida since 2001.

Gov. Rick Scott made it perfectly clear last week that any Florida port that signed a trade pact with Cuba, run by brutal dictator Raul Castro,  would not receive state funds for improvements.

A delegation from Cuba visited the Port of Palm Beach on Friday, but a memorandum of understanding was not signed due to the governor’s statements.

Now Scott has taken the stance a step further. His proposed 2017-18 $83.5 billion  state budget  released Tuesday says $176 million designated for port infrastructure projects cannot go to any port that expands trade with Cuba.

None of the funds may go to projects “that result in the expansion of trade with the Cuban dictatorship because of their continued human rights abuses,” the budget states.

Since 2011 Scott has overseen the investment of $1.2 billion in port infrastructure investments support.

While businesses based at the Port of Palm Beach do not trade directly with Cuba, Crowley Maritime Corp. transports goods from Port Everglades  to Cuba, and has 16 for years.

“Crowley is authorized to ship licensed cargo to Cuba. Currently, we are sailing to Havana, Cuba from Port Everglades, FL and Jacksonville, FL as an alternate port every week,” the company states on its website.

Asked whether those ports would be cut off from state funds due to Crowley’s activities,  the governor’s office issued this response: “While the Governor does not support doing business with the Castro regime, ports receive state funding and private businesses do not.”

In October 2000, the U.S. Congress passed legislation, later signed by the President into law on October 28, 2000, which changed the U.S.-Cuba trade relationship by enacting certain exceptions from U.S. sanctions legislation for agricultural and medical exports.

The Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 was not comprehensive and some prohibitions remain. The ban on U.S. imports from Cuba was not changed by this legislation.

John Kavulich, president, U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Inc., said that since the first exports of agricultural commodities and food products in December 2001, the total value of exports has exceeded $5.2 billion. Since 1992, more than $16 million in healthcare products has been exported under provisions of the Cuban Democracy Act.

Since 2010, the U.S. has exported more than 4.8 million tons of products to Cuba. Of that, 737,155 tons went to Cuba from Florida ports.

Kavulich said that during the Obama Administration, imports were authorized by changes to regulations.   Agricultural commodities included coffee and charcoal, with sourcing restrictions (a non-Republic of Cuba government component) and textiles and crafts created by independent business owners.

There are no specific “bans” on imports from the Republic of Cuba, however, there are statutory impediments relating to duties and tariffs, Kavulich said.

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Matthew: Port of Palm Beach, other South Florida ports at condition X-ray

The Port of Palm Beach is under port condition X-ray because of Hurricane Matthew. (Provided)
The Port of Palm Beach is under port condition X-ray because of Hurricane Matthew. (Provided)

The Coast Guard has set port condition X-ray for all South Florida ports and terminals as Hurricane Matthew approaches the state.

As of the 11 a.m. National Hurricane Center advisory, Matthew is poised to hit Florida along the Atlantic coast. A hurricane watch has been issued from Deerfield Beach to Brevard County.

Port of Palm Beach, Port Miami, Port Everglades and Port of Fort Pierce are included in the Coast Guard’s advisory.

Port condition X-ray is set when sustained gale force winds of 25 mph and gusts up to 40 mph from Matthew are expected in the area within 48 hours.

The ports are still open to commercial traffic while condition X-ray is in effect. However, the Coast Guard says all commercial ships and barges greater than 500 gross tons should start preparing to leave port now.

Since yesterday, South Florida ports have been under port condition Whiskey. The next port condition would be Yankee, meaning sustained gale force winds are expected within 24 hours. At that time, traffic into and out of the port will be restricted.

The Coast Guard offers these safety tips for boaters ahead of the storm:

  • Stay off the water.  The Coast Guard’s search and rescue capabilities degrade as storm conditions strengthen.  This means help could be delayed.  Boaters should heed weather watches, warnings and small craft advisories.
  • Evacuate as necessary.  If mandatory evacuations are set for an area, the public should evacuate without delay.  Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate or rescue those in danger during the storm.
  • Secure belongings.  Owners of large boats are urged to move their vessels to inland marinas where they will be less vulnerable to breaking free of their moorings or to sustaining damage.  Trailerable boats should be pulled from the water and stored in a place that is not prone to flooding.  Those who are leaving their boats in the water are reminded to remove EPIRBs and to secure life rings, lifejackets and small boats. These items, if not properly secured, can break free and require valuable search and rescue resources be diverted to ensure people are not in distress.
  • Stay clear of beaches. Wave heights and currents typically increase before a storm makes landfall. Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and rip currents caused by hurricanes.  Swimmers should stay clear of beaches until local lifeguards and law enforcement officials say the water is safe.
  • Be prepared. Area residents should be prepared by developing a family plan, creating a disaster supply kit, having a place to go, securing their home and having a plan for pets. Information can be found at the National Hurricane Center’s webpage.
  • Stay informed. The public should monitor the progress and strength of the storm through local television, radio and Internet. Boaters can monitor its progress on VHF radio channel 16. Information can also be obtained on small craft advisories and warnings on VHF radio channel 16.

More coverage of Hurricane Matthew:

When do I put up my hurricane shutters?

The latest from The Post’s weather reporter, Kim Miller

Make sure you have your hurricane supplies

Which Palm Beach County gas stations can pump without power?

Enviros sue Army Corps over Port Everglades dredging plan, coral reefs

Coral reefs such as this one contain diverse ecosystems and protect coastlines from wave action and tropical storms.
Coral reefs such as this one contain diverse ecosystems and protect coastlines from wave action and tropical storms.

The Florida Wildlife Federation and two other  environmental organizations and America’s largest trade organization for recreational divers filed suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service in federal court Wednesday to seek protections for  coralreefs off Fort Lauderdale.

The corals in and around Port Everglades are threatened by a the Corps proposed dredging and port expansion project to make way for larger, Panama-canal sized vessels, the groups said.

In the complaint filed today, Miami Waterkeeper, Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Wildlife Federation, and the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association  allege that the Corps inadequately considered the risks to corals in approving the Port Everglades dredging project, and violated the National Environmental Policy Act  process and the Endangered Species Act .

The complaint points out that the environmental analyses that the Corps and the National Marine Fisheries Service relied on to approve the project simply does not represent “best available science,” the legal standard for agency decision-making, because it fails to account for new information realized during dredging at PortMiami, among other reasons.

Port Everglades is about 30 miles north of the Port of Miami, where the Corps recently deepened and widened the Miami Harbor Channel, a project that proved disastrous for the coral reef in the area. For the PortMiami project, the Corps had assumed there would be minimal impacts to coral, but instead fine-grained sediment from the project injured and smothered tens of thousands of coral colonies and over 250 acres of the reefs. The damage spread out over half a mile from the dredging.

Despite these devastating results, the Corps has used the same flawed methodologies to evaluate the Port Everglades proposal, refusing to change any of its procedures to better protect corals, the groups said.

“Floridians know the beauty and the value of these majestic reefs — the only nearshore barrier reef in the continental US. The PortMiami project proved that the Corps of Engineers’ environmental review process is flawed, and that the dredging could irreparably harm this national treasure.” said Brettny Hardy, an attorney at Earthjustice who represents plaintiffs in the case. “Under the law, a proper analysis must be done before further taxpayer dollars are spent on this potentially devastating project.”

“After the devastating impacts caused by the dredging at PortMiami to our reefs, we will do everything in our power to ensure that history does not repeat itself at Port Everglades.” said Rachel Silverstein, executive director and waterkeeper of Miami Waterkeeper. “The Corps must follow the law.”

While the Corps has already acknowledged that its current environmental analysis is not appropriate or sufficient, it does not plan to begin a new formal evaluation of the dredging plans and environmental considerations until January 2017, at the earliest. In the meantime, it is moving forward with engineering and design of the Port Everglades project and seeking Congressional authorization for project funding, still relying on faulty, outdated environmental documents.

“It is incredibly reckless that the Corps is continuing to move forward without redoing its evaluation based on the dramatic sedimentation impacts that took place at PortMiami,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Protecting the coral reef will require more expansive – and likely more expensive – monitoring, mitigation, and changes to dredging methodologies. Because the Corps’ analysis is inadequate, the groups fear that the current requested funding levels will fall short of what’s needed to prevent harm to the reef.

“That’s exactly why these documents are intended to be done properly before the project is authorized. The Corps is going about this backwards and the result will be an incomplete execution of the plan to protect the reefs,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

The reefs provide huge environmental and economic benefits to South Florida.

“The living coral reefs in South Florida are enormously important, not only as an irreplaceable environment, but as a contributor to the economy of the state and Florida’s diving industry,” said Tom Ingram, President and CEO of the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association.

“Each year snorkeling and scuba diving in Florida account for almost 9 million visitor-days, create almost 30,000 full-time equivalent tourism-related jobs, and contribute about $1 billion directly to the Florida economy. DEMA is determined to help protect the natural reef from destruction so that many generations to come can continue to enjoy the opportunity to see, first-hand, this unique and precious natural resource,” Ingram said.