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Turkey's Floating Power Ships Rescue Cuba's Troubled Power Grid

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Cuba is attempting to solve a big problem with help from a Turkish Company. Sitting in the Havana Harbor is a "power barge," one of four in Cuba now providing a portion of Cuba's electrical power.

Another one of the power ships is moored in the Port of Muriel.

"The Soviets before the Soviet Union fell apart had built a number of electrical plants. Those plants were abandoned. They are not in working condition," said Cuba scholar and author Dr. Andy Gomez.

The Soviet-designed nuclear plant in the province of Cienfuegos was never completed.

When Cubans hit the streets in July the cry was about freedom, but it was also frustration with life on the island and constant electrical blackouts are certainly part of the mix.

The Turkish power ships address that issue.

"You pull it up to a country. You dock it and basically plug it in," explained John Kavulich, the president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

There are now four Turkish-owned power ships serving Cuba. It is estimated that they provide between 10-15% of the island's electrical needs. The Turkish Company Karpowership has ships placed worldwide.

It is a heavy player in providing power to third-world nations.

"Turkey has an increasing commercial, economic and political relationship with Cuba," said Kavulich.

Turkey's impact on Cuba is not as well-known as the influence exerted by Russia, China, and Iran.

"President of Turkey Erdoğan has an increasing footprint in Cuba," said Kavulich.

The Turks are heavily involved in Cuba's pharmaceutical sector. A Turkish company manages the Port of Havana. The power ships are a highly visible symbol of Turkish influence and critical to the Cuban regime's tourism cash cow.

"You can't very well expect to fill up a hotel and then tell people that they have no air condition, or the power is gonna be off in their room for 4-5 hours a day," said Kavulich.

The Cuban power infrastructure, power poles, transmission lines, delivery of power to homes continues to be a problem despite the presence of the power ships. This month Cuba will go online with the nation's first biomass-fired power plant which will burn sugar cane. The plant is located in Central Cuba.

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