Opponents want terminal environmental OK withheld

Environmentalists are stepping up their attack against the proposed $1 billion container handling facility at Moín on the Caribbean coast.

Three individuals identified as environmentalists and academics have asked the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental to withhold a required permit. The terminal is the proposed man-made island on which APM Terminals will construct the new port.

The opponents are Allan Astorga, Mauricio Álvarez and Álvaro Sagot. They presented what they called 21 observations, mostly questions about technical details such as how petroleum fuel will be handled.

They also said that the ebb and flow of the tides over the years could produce significant damage to the ecosystem and the coastal mangroves. In addition, a road will be built that passes over part of the mangroves, they added.

The opponents also said that the proposal to extract millions of cubic meters for fill to create the proposed island is really mining and should be evaluated separately and independently under the country’s mining code.

The three men said that the Caribbean ports should be improved but within a framework of environmental sustainability.

The central government strongly supports the container facility proposal and sees it as a key element to the economic development of the entire Limón province.

The Dutch firm APM Terminals has been designated the concession holder for the project. Casa Presidencial has said the project would bring 2,000 jobs to the poverty-ridden Caribbean coast.

APM Terminals operates an integrated global network of ports, terminals and inland services. This network has 53 ports in 32 countries, 121 inland facilities in 48 countries, with a total of 22,000 employees in 62 countries, the company said when it received the concession.

The terminal will undergo phased expansion in accordance with provisions of the concession agreement. Upon the completion of the final phase, the terminal will have an area of 80 hectares, with 1,500 meters of pier, five berths, a 2.2-kilometer (1.4-mile) breakwater and an access channel 18 meters (59 feet) deep.

The company added that the dredging will permit the entry of larger ships with greater container capacity, creating economies of scale and that construction of the breakwater will counteract weather conditions that prevent normal functioning at the port of Moín and enable the terminal to operate 365 days a year.

The firm will build a state-of-the-art terminal, will compete with the government- owned docks that are considered highly inefficient. A process that now takes up to five days to unload a ship could be done in a single day, Casa Presidencial said. The project already survived one court challenge by banana exporters. More court cases are likely.

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