No dock strike progress, but new options emerge for the port

The strike by dockworkers in Limón enters its 13th day today with little likelihood of a quick settlement.

Casa Presidencial revealed Friday that the striking union has rejected a proposal by the government that would have lavished public funds on the central canton of Limón as well as the Moín docks and nearby infrastructure.

Strikers are asking that the central government renegotiate a contract with APM terminals so that the Dutch firm did not have exclusivity over handling containers at the $1 billion port it proposes to build as a concession.

Strikers and their Sindicato de Trabajadores de JAPDEVA have exhausted their legal remedies, but the claim that the contract bestows an illegal monopoly on the Dutch company appears to be something new.

President Luis Guillermo Solís has said the government must adhere to the law and the existing contract. Casa Presidencial seeks a renewal of negotiations.

Meanwhile, there appears to be a proposal for much more work at the docks.

The Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales at the University de Costa Rica held a seminar on a dry canal Friday.

The dry canal, a rail line, would traverse the relatively flat northern part of Costa Rica from Moín to a new port in northwest Costa Rica. The project would compete with the soon-to-be-enlarged Panama Canal. The idea is not new, and government officials have toyed with the idea of a dry canal using the country’s existing rail network.

Containers would be unloaded from a ship at one port and transferred by rail to the other port and a waiting ship. Representatives of the Empresa Tren Interoceánico Continental and Americas Gateway Development Corp. Ltda, appeared at the seminar Friday.

The advantage of the project is that the trains would not have to pass through the congested metro area where rail cars compete with autos and buses.

There are other projects. One of course, is the plan by a Chinese businessman to dig a real canal across Nicaragua. Chinese firms also are in discussion in Honduras for a similar project there that would include El Salvador.

The Limón port agency is the Junta de Administración Portuaria y Desarrollo Económica de la Vertiente Atlántica, known as JAPADEVA.

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