Cuba reports dramatic drop in maritime shipping

HAVANA, June 25 (Reuters) - International shipping to and from the island nation of Cuba fell by more than 60 percent in 2009 as the country slashed imports to deal with a foreign exchange crisis, a government report released on Friday said.

The report, posted on the National Statistics Office web page (, provides a good indicator of the depth of the economic crisis in the Communist-run nation, which imports most of its energy, machinery, food and consumer goods.

International maritime shipping fell from 11.36 million tonnes in 2008 to 4.52 million tonnes last year, the report stated.

Import tonnage was 3.27 million tonnes in 2009, compared with 8.84 million tonnes in 2008, while export tonnage was unchanged at around 450,000 tonnes the report said (here).

Cuba’s economy has been battered by the global financial crisis, damaging hurricanes and chronic inefficiencies.

Faced with a mushrooming trade deficit, a liquidity crisis and tight credit, Cuban President Raul Castro declared at the end of 2008 the country could no longer spend more than it earned and proceeded to cuts imports.

Economy Minister Marino Murillo said in December imports were down 37.4 percent compared to 2008, while the government had turned 2008’s foreign exchange deficit into a surplus.

Foreign businessman in Cuba say the country appears to be reducing imports even more this year. The cutbacks have led to spot shortages of goods and some foods.

Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Jeff Franks and Alan Elsner