Construction of a new cargo dock in the Caribbean port of Moín faced yet another delay over the weekend when union members disrupted a public hearing to discuss details of the project with local residents and dock workers. The meeting was suspended for a second time in less than two months.
The National Technical Secretariat of the Environment Ministry (SETENA) convened the first town hall meeting to discuss an environmental feasibility study on Nov. 9. Rioting by members of the local dock worker’s union (SINTRAJAP) forced the suspension of that meeting, which was attended by residents and workers of the Atlantic Port Authority (JAPDEVA).
A few days later, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) ordered a second hearing, which was scheduled for last Saturday.
According to union leaders, someone turned off the microphone while SINTRAJAP spokesman José Luis Castillo was speaking. SINTRAJAP members responding by hurling plastic bottles. SETENA had had enough and cancelled the rest of the event.
Castillo denied that members of his group threw objects.
“There was jeering, but I didn’t see any object-hurling,” Castillo told The Tico Times.
Workers also said they were upset that representatives of the Dutch company APM Terminals and municipal officials did not attend.
APM Terminals Communications Manager Rogelio Douglas said ATM representatives were at the hearing.
“For reasons beyond our control, SETENA decided to end the public hearing on January 25, 2014. APM Terminals respects, above all, the principles of safety and integrity of individuals, so we will wait for SETENA and all other relevant agencies’ indications on what is next in this process,” Douglas said in a company statement.
The statement also indicated that APM Terminals Legal Manager Flemming Falkentoft and Environmental Manager Sylvia Gamboa attended the hearing “along with the full staff of experts from the Tropical Science Center, responsible for conducting the environmental impact study for the project.”
In addition to scuffles at the meeting, SINTRAJAP members on Saturday also blocked docks and prevented at least seven ships from transferring cargo, Repretel reported.
Last year, government officials expected work on the $1 billion project to begin in March. They are now concerned that further delays could expose the country to breach-of-contract sanctions.
Last weekend’s delay also means the project – which many consider crucial for Costa Rica to remain competitive – will not begin before President Laura Chinchilla leaves office on May 8.
On Saturday Chinchilla condemned the union’s actions on her Twitter account:
Enemigos del progreso en Limón, impiden audiencia pública ordenada por Sala IV para construcción de nuevo puerto.¡Limón no merece ese trato!
— Laura Chinchilla M (@Laura_Ch) January 25, 2014
“Enemies of progress in Limón prevented the public hearing ordered by the Sala IV for the construction of a new dock. Limón does not deserve such treatment!” the president tweeted.