By Renzo Dasso
Business News Americas
The Costa Rican government expects to make the final decision regarding the future of the Limon-Moin port complex concession in March or April this year, the general director of the public works and transport ministry's (MOPT) maritime and ports division, Hector Arce, told BNamericas.
The government will base its decision on a report carried out by Dutch consulting firm Royal Haskoning, which analyzed the best options to operate the facilities.
"The study only covered the ports on the Caribbean coast, not on the Pacific coast. The study will serve as the basis for the executive decision regarding the concession process," Arce said.
"Two options are currently being analyzed. Privatizing the port complex - which entails turning Limon city into a port town - or building a new facility right next to Moin," he added.
Arce also said that, in the event a new facility is built, the study specifies it should be a large container port. If this is the case, the new port would compete with Limon-Moin.
"A special government committee is currently analyzing the matter with (Atlantic port authority) Japdeva. This includes the resolution of pending labor issues," Arce said, referring to negotiations between Limon-Moin union Sintrajab and Japdeva.
The government originally proposed that the complex, located in Limon province, be offered in concession to a single private developer.
However, Sintrajab rejected the proposal, arguing that the privatization implied firing 6,000 of the 7,000 workers employed at the facility.
On October 31 last year, the union suggested that the facility either be turned into a tourist complex or that the government pay the entity $700 million in compensation to allow the privatization process to be carried out.
Later, on November 3, the government responded by calling the request "absurd" and offered Sintrajab $80 million. That same day, the union sent the government a letter rejecting the offer and demanding pending labor compensation owed to the workers.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias plans for the port complex to be operating under the new model before his term ends in 2010.