Costa Rica in Central America has been hailed as one of the happiest countries on earth. With coastlines on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides, its name literally means ‘rich coast’. On its eastern shoreline lies the province and town of Limon – the first place where Christopher Columbus anchored when he sailed into Costa Rica. It has incredible natural resources and is populated with Limonians who love the place so much they get tears in their eyes when they speak about leaving. Yet, for all its natural and human capital, it has been hampered by a series of social and economic problems.
With no tertiary education facilities and opportunities for professional development at a low, young people were, albeit reluctantly, leaving Limon in droves. The capital, San Jose, offers education, job opportunities and a faster pace of life. Those who left Limon often did not return, which meant any potential talent – and hope for revival – left with it. That is, until news started spreading of a new container terminal being built at Limon port, and not just any terminal: the most efficient container terminal in Latin America.
In January 2015, APM Terminals, a subsidiary of Danish conglomerate, Maersk, started the construction of a 40 hectare artificial island in the ocean off Limon as a platform for the biggest cranes in the word, with the ability to services the biggest vessels in the world. When they become operational in January 2018 the plan is for it to not only be the doorway to the rest of Costa Rica, but also to Central America.
Costa Rica is the biggest exporter of fresh pineapple in the world, with the fruit being ranked as the best in terms of quality globally. Long queues of vessels forming at the old port resulted in many vessels leaving without collecting their cargo. Tonnes of fresh produce stayed behind, rotting in its containers – a huge financial blow to the producers. The aim is for the new port to run like a pitstop in a Formula 1 race: everyone in sync in the fastest, most efficient way, but still keeping with safety regulations.
Many Limonians are returning, even from overseas, and the port is already enabling opportunity at this first stage of building. Also, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, APM Terminals is offering free training programmes to interested Limonians in order to create a skilled workforce for the port. Even without being complete, the potential of the new port at Limon is fast returning Costa Rica to the ‘rich coast’ it actually is.