The Council of State has just passed Decree-Law 194, "On violations involving the ownership and operation of boats in the national territory". It authorizes the country’s Harbor Masters to sanction those who commit the violations described in this legislation with fines and the confiscation of their boats and other goods on board.

There have recently been repeated violations of the existing regulations on the ownership and operation of boats, mostly medium and small size, with the purpose of using them for illegal migration and other illicit activities that are extremely harmful to public interests.

As it is known, the governments of Cuba and the United States signed a Migratory Agreement on May 2, 1995 that allows for the orderly, legal and safe migration of Cubans.

It is also known that throughout almost 40 years, and still today, when absurd provisions like the so-called Cuban Adjustment Act continue to be in effect, the various US administrations have encouraged illegal migration from Cuba. Although the majority of those illegally emigrating have done so in recent times by way of speedboats coming from Florida, there has also been an increase in the number of those who attempt to do so from within Cuba.

We have repeatedly requested from the U.S. authorities a greater effort to combat the traffic of Cuban emigrants that is organized, financed and carried out from within U.S. territory. Recently, we have noticed that those authorities have made statements and taken measures to this end.

Based on the aforementioned Migratory Agreement, it is Cuba’s duty to prevent illegal migration and we do so with the seriousness and responsibility with which we always assume our commitments. Those who attempt to migrate illegally violate our country’s international commitments and promote disobedience and the transgression of the law.

If, despite all efforts, which have reduced illegal migration to a minimum, this activity has increased as the result of rumors and lies propagated from Miami and the constant invitation to break the law by the counterrevolutionary Mafia based there intent on destroying the Migratory Agreement, then it is our duty to reduce migration organized from within our own country to the minimum possible.

Unlimited greed has led some to get involved in organizing such hazardous illegal migration. By doing so, they not only create disorder and disturb fishing and maritime navigation but also use materials and means from illegal sources to construct or adapt boats and use them without permission. Often, because these boats do not meet the minimum technical requirements, they endanger those who irresponsibly accept to travel this way even at the cost of their lives and those of innocent relatives, including women and children, trusting shameless and unscrupulous individuals who participate or cooperate in these activities for monetary gain.

It has therefore become necessary to raise the demands and control on all kinds of privately owned boats and others that can be used for these purposes, in order to protect those at risk of falling prey to such delinquents given that, aside from the country’s commitments, it is our State’s responsibility to its citizens.

Meanwhile, illegal fishing is causing serious damage to the national economy and its natural resources. Individuals who take part in this illegal activity extract from our waters thousands of tons of species with a high commercial value every year. Likewise, they disturb the fishing plans for domestic consumption and the country loses over 20 million dollars in convertible currency earnings. At the same time, they destroy or steal valuable fishing tackle; poison the marine environment; threaten important species in our ecosystem with extinction due to over-catching; catch species protected by national and international regulations and illicitly market toxic species, thus endangering people’s health.

All of this creates disorder and misbehavior in the country’s marine environment. Some people recklessly carry out these activities using unauthorized means of transport that do not even comply with the minimum navigational safety requirements. In addition to endangering the very lives of those who use these means, this also jeopardizes maritime traffic in various regions of the country.

In accordance with the new legislation, "the ownership and operation of boats in national territory are ruled by principles and regulations applicable to maritime traffic and commerce and the safety of navigation and human life at sea, which is regulated through national legislation and the international agreements and accords to which the Republic of Cuba is a party." Therefore, it has become necessary to approve the corresponding measures to adequately sanction non-compliance with such regulations and safeguard the security of the waterways and life at sea.

According to the Decree-Law passed on July 19, 1999, which will be in force ensuing its publication in the Official Gazette, the following acts shall be considered violations:

  1. Building boats in the absence of due authorization from the corresponding Port Authority.
  2. Repairing boats without due authorization from the corresponding Port Authority.
  3. Using materials and means from illegal sources for the building, repair and operation of boats.
  4. Owning or operating boats which are not duly registered with the corresponding Port Authority Registry.
  5. Transporting boats on land without a permit issued by the appropriate Port Authority or violating the conditions set forth therein.
  6. Being in the possession of boats for which the legitimacy of ownership cannot be ascertained.
  7. Entering or leaving port or navigating in territorial waters without the corresponding dispatch or authorization from the Port Authority or violating the conditions set forth therein.
  8. Loading or unloading persons or objects regardless of the established regulations or in unauthorized places.
  9. Docking, anchoring and keeping boats outside of the established or authorized location.
  10. Failing to comply with the physical safety and security of boats.
  11. Violating the regulations for access to boats located in port.
  12. Transferring control of a boat without prior authorization from the corresponding Port Authority.
  13. Navigating in restricted areas without the proper authorization or failing to comply with the conditions set forth therein.
  14. Violating any other regulation established by national institutions involved in the operation of boats.

Anyone who commits or allows others to commit any of the violations described above will be fined the amount established for each case, taking into account the seriousness of the violation.

The violations contained in paragraphs b), j), k) and n) are considered minor and will be sanctioned with fines of 500 to 1500 Cuban pesos. The violations contained in paragraphs e) and i) are considered serious and will be sanctioned with fines of 1000 to 5000 Cuban pesos, as will the repeated commission of minor violations and the commission of more than one minor violation at a time.

Finally, the violations in paragraphs a), c), d), f), g), h), l) and m) are considered very serious, as are the repeated commission of serious violations and the commission of minor and serious violations at the same time, and all will be sanctioned with fines of 3000 to 10,000 Cuban pesos.

Moreover, depending on the seriousness of the violation and its consequences, the competent authority may impose the confiscation of the boat and goods on board that are the property of the transgressor; crossing and coasting vessels will be exempt from this measure.

As an additional measure, the Harbor Masters may temporarily or definitively suspend permits, designations or authorizations that have been issued.

As for appeals, the legislation specifies that counter to the measure dictated by the competent authority --the Harbor Masters-- "notice of appeal can only be given to the National Head of Port Authorities of the Ministry of the Interior, after payment of the fine imposed, within the five working days following notification of the appealed Resolution, which will be submitted to the same Port Authority that heard of the violation," and that counter to what the latter resolves and counter to the imposed measure made final by not being appealed, "there will be no appeals or procedures of any kind admissible at either the administrative or judicial level."

In its special provisions, Decree-Law 194 specifies that when the violation is committed by a foreign person or entity or by a private or state-owned Cuban entity that carries out its operations in freely convertible currency, the fines will be charged in this currency, in accordance with the official exchange rate at the time they are imposed.

At the same time, the legislation sets forth that the revenues from the fines imposed under the Decree-Law will add to the state budget, while the goods confiscated will be directed to the socioeconomic destination of greatest use to the country.

The provisions of this legislation will be applied independently from the civic, work-related, administrative or penal responsibility that could be demanded for the acts leading to it.