Approval for container terminal is a long way off

Police officers view the Liberian- registered Hommonia Pomerena container ship at dock in Móin. The 209-meter boat was built in 2007 and probably never has actually been to Liberia and its port city of Monrovia.

Police officers view the Liberian- registered Hommonia Pomerena container ship at dock in Móin. The 209-meter boat was built in 2007 and probably never has actually been to Liberia and its port city of Monrovia.

Even though police have restored service at the Limón docks, the resolution of the conflict over a $1 billion container handling facility is a long way off.

The strike by dock workers purportedly is about a clause in the contract with APM Terminals, which the union claims bestows an illegal monopoly to handle shipping containers on the firm. President Luis Guillermo Solís defended the agreement and said in a statement  Thursday that the contract has been studied by a number of agencies and two branches of the Corte Suprema de Justicia.

Without a strong and evident commitment to the legal system, Costa Rica lacks the credibility necessary to attract inversions, the president said.

University professors and the  Federación Concervacionista are asking the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental  to annul the concession contract.

One of the professors is  Álvaro Sagot, who also is a lawyer. News files shows that he has opposed a number of major projects, including the Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Diquís, the concession for the highway to  San Ramón, the las Crucitas open pit gold mine and  even City Mall in Alajuela. The other professor is  Allan Astorga, a geologist.

Environmental approve is necessary for the construction of the container handling facility, which will be built on an artificial island in Moín harbor.

Project planners had hoped for environmental approval this year, but now, after the professors and the federation filed their objection, the environmental agency probably will spend much more time considering the case.

Specifically, the objections address 110 points of the environmental impact statement, including the procedures whereby the concession was granted

to APM Terminals the first place.

Curiously, one of the objections is that the environmental agency cut short a public hearing on the project in Limón before all who wanted spoke. That was the session where rowdy dock workers made so much of a ruckus that those administering the hearing saw no point in continuing. The courts ordered an addition hearing nevertheless.

The Fuerza Pública said that dock operations in both Moín and Limón were back in service by 9 a.m. Thursday. The police agency said that four highway blockade were broken up overnight. There are about 150 police officers providing security at the docks.

The Promotora del Comercio Exterior de Costa Rica said Thursday that about $12.7 million in exports pass through the Limón ports each day. The bulk of the exports are bananas and pineapples. The organization estimated that some  693 20-foot containers are shipped out each day and said that any slow down results in additional costs. Strikers walked out Wednesday morning.

Members of the striking  Sindicato de Trabajadores de Japdeva y Afines Portuarios said they are expecting outside support from other labor unions and hinted at sympathy strikes elsewhere.

Casa Presidential said that union leaders met Thursday with government minsters at the requests of some legislators.

Victor Morales Mora, minister of Trabajo y Seguridad Social, said the government reaffirmed its position that the contract clause cited by the union is not a subject of negotiations. He also said that the government is seeking more development in the Limón area to improve living conditions.

Public opinion seems to side with the government, Even the opposition Partido Liberación Nacional issued a statement backing Solís and said that the strike by dockworkers should not have taken place.

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