Source: Image courtesy of APMT.
The Limon Moin Container Port Project
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 than the second largest Costa Rican port, Caldera on the Pacific side (Figure 1). However, the current port is limited to alongside drafts of 9 meters and as such 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 amongst the most stable and competitive in Latin America, underline that the current port infrastructure is 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 is assuming 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 and 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 consists of a 40 hectares island 500 meters off the Caribbean coast, 600 meters of quay, two berths (alongside depth of 14.5 meters), a 1500 meter long breakwater, 16 meter deep channel and six super-post Panamax container gantry-cranes. This enables the terminal to handle ships in the range of 8,000 to 9,000 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 15,000 TEUs.
TCM is expected to handle over 1.3 million TEUs when operations start in 2018, a figure which is expected to rise to 2.5 million TEUs over the following decade as Costa Rican trade increases. A important driver for terminal activity concerns reefer (refrigerated containers) exports, mainly bananas and pineapples, coming out of Costa Rica, 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 market share in the U.S. and E.U. 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 designed to handle reefers, which is three times the average. The new terminal is expected to further reduce the costs of Costa Rican fresh tropical fruit exports and thus promote their competitiveness and availability on global markets. It will make Limon Moin one of the world's largest reefer terminal.
The APM Limon Moin project is part of an emerging trend in reefer supply chains. Services that used to be assumed by dedicated reefer ships or small container reefer ships are being shifted to regular liners with higher capacity and lower costs. Container ships also tend to have more reefer plugs to accommodate this growth. Ships used to have 5% of their available slots designed to handle reefers and many ships now have 20% of their slots allocated to reefers. Thus, the growth of the reefer trade is influencing the design of terminal facilities and shipping services in Latin America.