Rebeca Monzo, 9 November 2015 — While preparing for my departure from Miami, a friend suggested I ship part of my luggage by sea to lighten my load and the custom duties. To do this, we turned to an agency advertised on local TV.
The staff at the company, Tu Envío a Cuba (Your Shipment to Cuba) was very attentive and professional, which made us feel this was a reliable alternative. They assured us the packages would arrive in Cuba within twenty-three days or less, which further encouraged me to choose this option. What was never mentioned was how the process would play out once the shipment arrived in the country.
Sometime after the estimated time of arrival, I decided to call the offices here in Havana. After countless attempts over several days, I managed to get in touch with the information department, which provided me with the long-awaited answer. I was told my package had in fact arrived on October 18 at 2:30 pm (on the scheduled date no less), and I was even provided with a confirmation number. But when I insisted on details about the delivery date, they responded categorically that the shipping container in which my package arrived was at the port of Mariel and that I would have to wait three months due to shortages of trucks and manpower.
I decided to look into the matter further and discovered that one company, Almacenes Universal (Universal Warehouses), controls transportation and distribution of all merchandise, both state and private sector, throughout the island. Though the company has a fleet of vehicles at its disposal, they have never been fully operational. Many of its trucks are broken or in repair shops, hence all the delays now being experienced in delivering what are in many cases essential supplies to commercial and manufacturing enterprises.
Therefore, as one might expect, those of us who decide to ship some of our luggage by sea have to sit and wait patiently since we are not among the government’s priorities.
What is even worse is that the company to which we as travelers entrust our personal possessions does not warn us of these problems before taking our orders and collecting our money, as logic would dictate.
In my particular case, I can afford to wait, though this is neither the best nor the desired outcome. Unfortunately, however, this situation also impacts supplies of pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, mineral water and many other essential products, leading to regular shortages at pharmacies that affect the entire population.