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Foreign Investment in Cuba

Fast Forward: the ZED Mariel Today

ZED-Mariel

It’s a long way forward for the ZED Mariel Special Development Zone, from the official opening in 2014 up to today. Back in the early days of investment promotion, investors would see only the Mariel container terminal constructed by the Brazilian company, Grupo Odebrecht, in partnership with the Cubans.

By 2016, the entrance and a couple of factories had been constructed. The Pelican Business Center was completed, perched up on the hill overseeing the Zone.

Fast forward to the ZED Mariel in 2022. The progress is nothing less than spectacular. It has come a long way from the early days of windswept, unsurveyed, barren fields under burning Cuban skies with the one lonely port. There have been deals signed, extensive road and factory construction, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, and official visits from around the world.

Five years ago, we published an article describing the ZEDM as a project with a future. Today, Zed Mariel confirms that perspective. The progress achieved is remarkable.

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Today, the Zed Mariel is a bustling industrial city of warehouses, paved roads, electricity poles dotting the landscape, and transport trucks making shipment deliveries. New buildings are under construction. In the residential areas surrounding the Zone, children play outside houses in the residential neighborhoods built for employees. A new train station for cargo transport and passenger travel has three scheduled arrivals and departures each day.

Take a look at the ZED Mariel Today:

Pelican Business Center
CIGB-Mariel S.A.
Nescor Factory
Siboney International Clinic
ZED Mariel Train Station
ZED Mariel Train Station (2)
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Pelican Business Center
Pelican Business Center
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CIGB-Mariel S.A.
Nescor Factory
Nescor Factory
Siboney International Clinic
Siboney International Clinic
ZED Mariel Train Station
ZED Mariel Train Station
ZED Mariel Train Station (2)
ZED Mariel Train Station (2)
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The Financial Times fDi magazine named the ZEDM “Best Zone to Consider in the Future” in their Best Global Zones competition of 2017.

Indeed, words like ‘connectivity,’ ‘infrastructure,’ ‘investment,’ ‘foreign capital,’ ‘modernity,’ and ‘progress’ come to mind.

It is an epic tale of extraordinary economic development against so many odds.

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The ZEDM, 45 kilometers west of Havana, covers an area of 465.4 km². It is the largest deep water port in the region providing NeoPanamax ships with the required space and water depth. It has an annual capacity of 800,000 TEUs. The terminal offers 702 linear meters of dock, a depth of 17.9 meters, and four super post-Panamax cranes. The maneuvering dock for ships has a diameter of 500 meters and a depth of 15.9 meters. In October 2020, the Zed Mariel celebrated the milestone of 2,000,000 TEU processed.

Without a doubt, the location is ideal. Nearby ports are the United States, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Investors recognize the advantage. Mariel is a major transshipment hub benefiting the Panama Canal. It’s the shortcut for Asian markets to eastern coast North America and Europe and vice versa. It is a major component of economic development for the country and the region. Each year, Cuba continues to invests about $300 million in infrastructure development and operations.

ZED Mariel’s General Director Ana Teresa Igarza told us in a recent interview that the major objectives are to attract innovative investments that create value-added goods and services, expand knowledge and the use of clean technologies. The project supports Cuba’s national interests of import substitution, export promotion, and job creation.

ZED Mariel Benefits for Workers

Today the Zone employs over 15,000 people and pays above-average wages based on job classification. Employees benefit from residential housing, schools and health care services in a neighborhood surrounding the Zone. These benefits increase work-life balance and eliminate the need to commute to work.

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ZED Mariel Benefits for Investors

Tax breaks and other incentives are designed to attract new investors. Since opening in 2014, 62 national and international companies have opened up. Over the last eight years, the total committed investments exceeds $3 billion, and $1.5 billion of that has already been invested. Corporations are a mix of 100% foreign capital, joint ventures, and international economic associations. Companies are now operating and producing for the domestic and export markets. In addition, a Vietnamese company ViMariel has opened up a concessionaire within the Zone with completed infrastructure.

Benefits for potential investors include the ZEDM One-Stop Shop computer system specifically designed for investors into the Zone. It processes licensing, authorizations, and permits. It’s a time-saver. The staff of the Pelican Business Center provides personalized assistance, privacy and protection to its investors.

Investors in the ZED Mariel are happy with their investments. In fact, many of those original investors have reinvested. Why leave when something works well? Those that are reinvesting are expanding factories and production capabilities.

To date, the ZED Mariel has attracted investment in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical, logistics services, storage and processing platforms, metal mechanics manufacturing, food production, construction materials, packaging, chemical products, and personal and household consumer goods sectors.

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In the final analysis, the ZED Mariel is not only a project with a future, it is a project with a vision for Cuban economic development. It’s fast forward to the future.

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