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Rail News: Logistics

From rail to barge to Havana: Distributor to transport Montana beans to Cuba through Corpus Christi port


A month ago, the Port of Corpus Christi began moving grain to Havana, Cuba, in a move port officials termed "historic." But port officials haven’t spent too much time reflecting on the move’s significance. They’ve been busy helping put together other shipments headed for Havana.

On Nov. 11, port officials announced that more goods would reach Havana via Corpus Christi: WestStar Food Co. L.L.C. and partner Yellowstone Bean Co. of Montana recently signed a $1.5 million contract with Cuba import agency ALIMPORT to move about 6.6 million pounds of Montana dry beans through the Port of Corpus Christi to Havana, Cuba.

A distributor of North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana beans to domestic and Mexican markets, WestStar currently leases transfer and bagging facilities at the Port of Corpus Christi's Southside Terminal. The Montana beans will be railed to Corpus Christi, sacked and loaded aboard a barge to Cuba by mid- December. The Corpus Christi-to-Havana trip is a two-day sail.

"This is the first in what we hope will become a regular shipment to Cuba," said Pat Wallesen, WestStar’s managing partner, adding that a number of entities — from Yellowstone Bean to a Montana congressional delegation to port officials — helped make the shipment a reality.

In July, officials from the Port of Corpus Christi and Cuba inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to ship grain to Havana — the first such strategic MOU between a U.S. port and Cuba, port officials said. In October, about 20,000 tons of wheat were loaded at the port destined for Havana.

"The port’s mission is to be an economic catalyst for the region, [and] one of our efforts in pursuing business under the Trade Act of 2000 was to help pave the way for more Texas companies and producers to trade with Cuba," said Port Commission Chairman Ruben Bonilla. "That is happening today."