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Costa Rica’s $1 billion port renovation project holds up in court

August 7, 2012

A Costa Rican administrative court on Monday ruled in favor of a $1 billion port renovation project in Moín, on the northern Caribbean coast.

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.”

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. Unions see the project as a threat to their livelihood. The trial concluded July 6, and judges had until Tuesday to rule on the case.

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

He said union lawyers would appeal the ruling. They also have filed a separate lawsuit challenging the concession’s constitutionality.

The port renovation will give the port the ability to 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.

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