They are 40 hectares of an artificial island, 1,000 million dollars (885 million euros) of investment and an ambition: change maritime traffic from the Caribbean. The Dutch multinational APM Terminals, subsidiary of the Danish shipping giant by sea Maersk, opened last week in Costa Rica a port complex that promises a revolution in the Central American freighter market. Located next to the strategic Panama Canal, the new Container Terminal of Moin (TCM) allows the berthing of the larger vessels that use this point of the planet to cross between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The first operations in the installation, built on an artificial islandl in front of Moín beach, in the province of Limón, began in November, eight years after the Costa Rican state delivered the concession to APM Terminals for exploitation for three decades. After more than 10 years of tug-of-war with the union of state port workers, legal objections, pressures and expectations of the private sector, and technical difficulties that caused delays, the Dutch company now begins its services with the promise of generating "a radical change in a strategic region ", according to the CEO of APM Terminals, Morten Engelstoft. They have proven methods and technologies that, the executive says, will allow the port terminal to soon become the most efficient port in Latin America and attract or generate businesses that could impact current routes.
With this new private terminal, Costa Rica will reduce the average service time of each ship from 40 to 15 hours and will be able to accommodate, without needing to transfer, the operations of the so-called ships. post panamax, whose dimensions -320 meters in length and 33 in width- allow them to transport up to 8,000 containers in a single trip and not the 2,500 that can fit in the vessels that docked so far in Limón. The shortening of time will also cause the reduction of logistics costs in the local market, the company projects. And it will open an alternative for shipping companies who choose today for the iconic Panama Canal, a colossal engineering work that redefined the world map of maritime cargo at the beginning of the last century.
"It will become a Central American hub," predicts Engelstoft, referring to the fresh produce market, the specialty of the Dutch company, which handles a third of that racking on a global scale. Moín could serve as a platform for banana, coffee and pineapple – of which Costa Rica is the main exporter of the planet – produced in the region. But also for medical products that require refrigeration and for the trade of other goods. The company plans to increase by 285% the number of routes that reach Moín and capture a good part of the ships that transit through the Panama Canal.
"I am convinced that new investment will come," says Engelstoft, referring to the port that APM Terminals opened since 2017 in the Mexican state of Michoacán (Pacific). "When a terminal like this is done, other businesses enter the ecosystem around the terminal. Inject 1,000 million dollars without a doubt triggers the arrival of more businesses: hotels, restaurants, tourist services … ". Its reference to illustrate this cascade effect is the Mexican port of Lázaro Cárdenas, next to which a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) was installed in 2017 with incentives that have attracted the attention of Asian investors.
The work in Moin has employed 650 people, but a study predicts that in the next decade it can generate up to 147,000 indirect jobs. This effect, however, will depend on the State and other economic actors fulfilling their promises of road and railway connectivity, points out Federico Villalobos, an expert in infrastructure and partner of Deloitte in Costa Rica. "This marks a milestone as marked [el fabricante de procesadores] Intel when it came to the country in 1997 to install a component production center. But, at the same time, it brings great institutional challenges to take advantage of the port's potential ", emphasizes the specialist, aware that infrastructure is one of the greatest relative weaknesses of the Central American country in terms of competitiveness.
Plan against poverty
The center-left government of Carlos Alvarado announced in 2018 the project of an electric freight train that would connect the entire Caribbean coast and the northern part of the country, where two years ago a highway that leads almost to the border with Nicaragua was launched. The plan to develop infrastructure in the Caribbean side of the country comes from behind, as the poverty, unemployment and insecurity of the Limón province exceed the averages of the rest of the country, but it has not finished taking shape. Until now. The project has not escaped controversy due to the privatization of the service, the environmental impact and the competition with the public port of Limón on the type of ships that it can serve in the future. However, the opening of the new port terminal also means good news at a time of uncertainty and uncertainty for the Costa Rican economy. Activity has gradually cooled over the past five years and the unemployment rate has climbed to 12%, the highest since the global financial crisis, a decade ago.
"The project has not escaped controversy over the privatization of the service, the environmental impact and the competition with the public port of Limón on the type of ships it can serve in the future, however, the opening of the new terminal The port is also good news in times of uncertainty and uncertainty for the Costa Rican economy, activity has gradually cooled over the past five years and the unemployment rate has climbed to 12%, the highest since the global financial crisis. a decade ago.
The official projection of growth of Costa Rica for 2019 is 3.2%, still above the average of Latin America that systematically grows less than the rest of emerging blocs, but below the figures after the Great Recession . The fiscal deficit, which has been constantly increasing in the last ten years, and the increase in the fiscal burden approved in 2018 – despite the longest strike of the century in the public sector – to try to straighten the course of public accounts generate a additional dose of concern in the private sector, which does not stop seeing in the Container Terminal of Moín a small great triumph to avoid convulsive moments "
The island. The first phase of the Container Terminal project in Moin, which has cost around 1,000 million dollars, consisted in creating an island of 40 hectares 500 meters from the Caribbean coast.
The terminal. The terminal covers about 80 hectares with a 650-meter pier and a depth of 14.5 meters. The access channel is 18 meters deep. Equipped with 29 cranes for electrical containers and six 'super-post panamax' gantry cranes, the terminal will be able to handle containerships of up to 8,500 TEU.
Export. A decisive factor for the activity of the terminal are refrigerated exports, mainly bananas and pineapples produced locally. Costa Rica is, according to the Inter-American Development Bank, the fourth world exporter of bananas and the first of pineapples.