By Brian Ellsworth
MIAMI, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Norwegian Cruise Line NCLH.N must pay $110 million in compensation for using a port that Cuba’s government confiscated in 1960, a U.S. judge ruled on Friday, a milestone for Cuban-Americans seeking compensation for cold. Wartime property seizures.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom in Miami follows her ruling in March that the use of the Havana Cruise Port Terminal constituted trading in confiscated property owned by the plaintiff, Delaware-incorporated Havana Docks Corp.
“Judgment is entered in favor of plaintiff Havana Docks Corporation and against Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd,”[ads1]; the decision reads.
“The plaintiff is awarded $109,848,747.87 in damages,” it says, adding that Norwegian must also pay an additional $3 million in court costs and expenses.
Norwegian Cruise Line did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has harshly criticized the Helms-Burton Act, describing it as an extraterritorial violation of international law.
Havana Docks had also sued cruise lines Carnival CCL.N, Royal Caribbean RCL.N and MSC under the Helms-Burton Act, which allows U.S. citizens to sue for the use of property seized in Cuba after 1959.
The ruling could lead to more lawsuits by Cuban exiles pursuing claims, estimated to be worth $2 billion, over asset seizures under the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
It may also serve as a reminder to multinational firms of the complications that can come with doing business in Cuba.
US cruise ships began visiting Cuba in 2016 for the first time in decades following a détente negotiated by former President Barack Obama that eased some provisions of a US embargo in place since the Cold War.
But the Trump administration in 2019 ordered a halt to all such cruises amid efforts to pressure Cuba over its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, an ideological opponent of Washington.
The Trump administration also allowed US citizens to sue third parties for the use of property seized by Cuban authorities, a provision of the Helms-Burton Act that had been waived by all previous presidents since the law’s passage in 1996.
Havana Docks says Cuba, which has been subject to a decade-old US trade embargo, never compensated it for the takeover of the property.
It sued the four cruise lines in 2019 in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Bloom in March held that the companies were liable for damages under the Helms-Burton Act, also known as the Libertad Act.
According to the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a non-profit organization that provides information on relations between the two countries, the 5,913 certified claims for property seized in Cuba represent nearly $2 billion in liability.
44 lawsuits have been filed under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, the organization says.
“For the current plaintiffs of Cuban descent, (the decision) will give them a moment of satisfaction,” said John Kavulich, the group’s president. “It will give them a moment to say ‘You can run, but you can’t hide,'” Kavulich said.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Miami; Editing by Diane Craft)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022.