The first direct maritime shipment of merchandise between Miami and Havana in more than five decades is being made on Wednesday, with the cargo ship Ana Cecilia due to set sail for Cuba loaded with humanitarian aid items.

"This is about the first direct shipment that's going to go there in 50 years," a spokesman for International Port Corp., the company in charge of the shipment, told Efe.

According to shipment organizers, this is the first time in the 50 years that the U.S. embargo has been in effect against Cuba that a U.S.-flagged ship has departed for the island loaded with merchandise, but they hastened to add that the humanitarian items are not going to be resold in Cuba.

Up to now, only agricultural products bought by the Cuban government have been shipped by sea to Havana from the United States.

The vessel was scheduled to set sail at noon from the cargo terminal on the Miami River for the port of Havana, some 370 kilometers (229 miles) away.

IPC, which is based in Miami, has obtained the appropriate licenses required for such a shipment from the U.S. Commerce Department and the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control.

The start of this service is a sign of a certain flexibility in relations between Cuba and the United States after, in recent years, restrictions on remittances and travel to the island have been eased by Washington.

According to IPC, the Ana Cecilia is scheduled to arrive in Havana on Thursday at 7 a.m. and thereafter to make a weekly Miami-Havana run. EFE