Court OKs Moín port project

January 28, 2014

From the print edition

Those behind an expensive plan to overhaul the Atlantic coast’s port system celebrated this week as judges ruled against two lawsuits that could have impeded the project. 

A Costa Rican administrative court on Monday decided in favor of a $1 billion port renovation project in Moín, on the northern Caribbean coast. The unions that filed the suits are regrouping and already intend to present more measures to try to halt the venture, which they perceive as a threat to their livelihood.  

The project, worth an estimated $992 million, will permit Dutch company APM Terminals to modernize the Atlantic coast’s dilapidated ports. The 33-year contract gives APM Terminals permission to construct and operate a new port called the Moín Container Terminal.

The 173-page ruling rejected two simultaneous lawsuits filed by the National Banana Workers Chamber and the Atlantic Port Authority union, which attempted to annul the largest private concession contract in Costa Rica’s history. The plaintiffs argued that the contract was granted without the completion of proper economic, technical and environmental studies.  

Judges disagreed, stating that the court did not see any violations and the concession would stand between APM Terminals and the government.

Paul Gallie, managing director of the project for APM Terminals, said in a statement the ruling “affirms the transparency and legality of the concession process.”

Allan Hidalgo, of the Atlantic Port Authority (Japdeva) added, “The court’s decision regarding the docks shows that the government has done everything in good standing.”

President Laura Chinchilla, who signed the contract in August 2011, also praised the verdict.

“This is excellent news for the country and for the province of Limón in terms of investment, generating employment and revitalizing the economy,” Chinchilla said in a press release. “This will help us continue working for the development of the province and improving the future for residents. Furthermore, the port will lift Costa Rica from the shameful position that we occupy worldwide for port infrastructure.”

The World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness report on port infrastructure ranks Costa Rica 137th of 142 countries. Government officials believe the construction and operation of the terminal will lead to thousands of new direct and indirect jobs in Limón, the country’s poorest province.

 Testimony concluded July 6, and judges had until Tuesday to rule on the case. But unions had been working on other lawsuits to block the project even before the verdict arrived.

Ronaldo Blear, head of the port workers union, said his organization already is preparing new legal measures to stop the project including appealing the ruling, according to CRHoy.com.

They also filed a separate lawsuit chall-enging the concession’s constitutionality.

The new port will take in enormous Post-Panamax ships that can hold up to 12,000 containers. The current docks only can accept ships that hold a couple thousand containers.

The deadline for completion of the first phase is 2016, with construction set to start in late 2013.

Master plan

The billion-dollar dock is one part of Japdeva’s four-step plan to renovate the Caribbean coast’s port structures. The new dock will take in all container ships that arrive at the Atlantic coast. The already-existing Moín port will handle general cargo. The port of Limón would cater exclusively to cruises and yachts. Finally, the National Oil Refinery (RECOPE) has begun to expand its petroleum port in Limón.

This week, Costa Rica began dredging to extend the oil dock, according to a statement from RECOPE. The RECOPE dock upgrade is slated to start in mid-August, with the works carrying an approximate price tag of $13.6 million.

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