The Limon Moin Container Terminal, Costa Rica

The Limon Moin Container Terminal, Costa Rica

Source: Photo courtesy of APMT.

Located about 160 nautical miles from the Caribbean entrance of the Panama Canal, the port of Limon Moin surpassed 1 million TEU for the first time in 2012, six times as much as the second-largest Costa Rican port, Caldera, on the Pacific side. However, the port was limited to alongside drafts of 9 meters and to container ships around 2,500 TEUs (Panamax ships can carry around 4,500 TEUs). The growth prospects of the Costa Rican economy, which ranks among the most stable and competitive in Latin America, underlined that the port infrastructure was inadequate to accommodate traffic growth expectations, larger classes of containerships as well as more stringent requirements in supply chain management.

In this context, APM Terminals (APMT) secured in 2011 a 33-year concession from the Costa Rican government to design, build, finance, and operate (DBFO) a new container terminal in the city of Moin. This DBFO form of public/private partnership implies that APMT assumes almost all the risk of the 992 million USD terminal project. TCM (Terminal de Contenedores de Moin) is the largest infrastructure project in Costa Rican history. It is meant to support Costa Rica’s growing agricultural export industry as well as an active manufacturing sector. The first phase of the TCM project was completed in 2019. It consisted of an 80 hectares island 500 meters off the Caribbean coast, 650 meters of quay, two berths (alongside depth of 14.5 meters), a 1500 meter long breakwater, 18-meter deep channel, and six super-post Panamax container gantry-cranes. This enables the terminal to handle ships in the range of 8,500 TEUs, depending on the load configuration. Future expansion phases will place the alongside berth depth at 16 meters, enabling the terminal to handle containerships in the range of 13,000 TEUs. This corresponds to the New Panamax ship class able to transit the expanded Panama Canal.

TCM is expected to handle over 1.3 million TEUs, a figure projected to rise to 2.5 million TEUs by 2030 as Costa Rican trade increases. An important driver for terminal activity concerns reefer (refrigerated containers) exports, mainly Costa Rican bananas and pineapples, the fourth-largest banana exporter and the largest pineapple exporter in the world. The country currently has 70% of the global market share for pineapples, with 82% of the US market. Since pineapples are a relatively new commodity on global markets, low levels of market penetration underline a substantial growth potential. Such an important consideration is part of the terminal design, with about 15% of the terminal capacity allocated to handle reefers, which is three times the average. The terminal is expected to reduce further the costs of Costa Rican fresh tropical fruit exports and thus promote their competitiveness and availability on global markets. This will make Limon Moin one of the world’s largest reefer terminals.