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The Caribbean can

The Caribbean can
Two years into its operations and APM Terminals’ Moin Container Terminal has had to weather more storms than most, Lacey Jones reports.

Launching a new terminal can be a daunting task – there are so many things to consider: Is this a good location? Is there a viable market here? Will it be successful? Factoring in the current state of the global supply chain - which has been hit by one
disruption after another in such a short time, COVID-19, the Suez Canal incident and now Yantian - can strike the fear into any terminal operator. Yet APM Terminals’ (APMT) Moín Container Terminal (TCM) has had to face all of this in its infancy and, through the dedication and experience of its operator, has still managed to be successful.

Construction began on TCM in 2015, with the aim of repositioning Costa Rica in the global competitiveness ranking as one of the most efficient ports in Central America, and it officially started operations in 2019. In this short time, it has achieved many important milestones such as the opening of new direct trade routes, the increase in port efficiency and the attraction of ships with greater capacity.

The terminal has reduced the service time at port from 30 hours to 10 without waiting time in the bay. With 28 crane moves per hour, the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE) ranked APMT Moín among one of the most productive terminals in Latin America, the US and Europe in 2020. It also holds one of the best records for safety in Latin America. In its first year of operation, TCM recorded zero Lost Time Incidents (LTIs) for staff and contractors.

During the height of the pandemic, APMT implemented different biosafety protocols to ensure the safety of its employees, customers, suppliers and visitors that allowed TCM to operate 24/7. Hartmut Goeritz, managing director at APMT Moín, told CM: “As an essential service, the pandemic reinforced the importance of continuity in a logistics chain. 80% of Costa Rica’s containers come through TCM, this is something our team, the heart of our operation, took with great commitment and responsibility to our country.

“It was important for us to quickly comply with the changes in our processes to guarantee import and export of both foreign trade and essential services, like food and medical supplies.” With these objectives in mind, the company was able to attend more than 1,200 ships, handle approximately 600,000 containers and make important advances in terms of productivity, sustainability and human talent management throughout 2020.

APMT Moín’s commitment has been at the heart of its business model since the beginning. Through the terminal close to 1,000 new jobs were created, with more than 95% of these employees being from the province of Limón. This has provided great stability for the company, as most have joined since the start of operations.

The company also has a social responsibility programme called The Caribbean Can, through which it develops several projects with the local police, the Ministry of Education, the Earth University, and the Food Bank, between others. In alliance with the US Embassy and Lumi Consulting Firm, APMT Moín created a project entitled ‘Made in Limon’, an initiative to promote 70 small entrepreneurs, 90% of whom are women. The project began in November 2020 and ended in May 2021 with the ‘Made in Limón’ fair.

Additionally, throughout 2020 APMT extended its hands and its available equipment to provide help in various donations with the mission of bringing food and necessities to the families of Limón that were in a state of vulnerability because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among APMT Moín’s biggest priorities throughout the pandemic was ensuring operational continuity of the port and the Costa Rican international trade and, as a result, important advances were made in complementary services as well as in its digital platforms.

More than 22 of APMT’s terminals provide access to container tracking using its standard interface, known as Track & Trace (T&T) and one of them is TCM. This platform, combined with an Application Programming Interface (API), has helped clients to obtain
information on their containers and thus enable more productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness.

As part of the global rollout of a standardised container tracking system for its terminals, APMT has made available a customisation option which allows customers to save container data to a watchlist and configure email notifications to save time and optimise their flows. The terminal operator is also connecting its data to TradeLens, a blockchain platform developed jointly between Maersk and IBM.

Such digital platforms have proven to be essential in the current global climate. “During 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, the global supply chains have demonstrated the relatively fragile balance when there is an external major disruptor (ie – COVID-19),” Goeritz said. “In the short term, as vaccination programmes advance in most regions of the world, we expect consumption and global trade volume to continue recovering. In the long term, however, it would be interesting to see what structural changes will occur in a post-pandemic market and whether we see an important change in trade lanes as a result of near shoring.”

Though perhaps one of the greatest, and most unexpected, the pandemic has not been the only challenge TCM has had to face in its two years of operation. More locally, the current hinterland connectivity to the terminal has “room for improvements” according to Goeritz. Ambitions projects have been proposed to drastically improve the situation. Currently, the major national road that connects to the port is undergoing an expansion and there are feasibility studies being performed for an electric cargo train for the Caribbean region. These two projects will help to positively change the hinterland connectivity outlook in the years to come.

Focusing upon the terminal itself, APMT’s goal is to continue increasing its productivity levels and working hand in hand with its clients and authorities to continue to simplify, through digitalisation, the foreign trade processes. “This is where we see our biggest and most important opportunity,” Goeritz noted.

At present the terminal covers around 80 ha with a 650 m quay and a depth of 14.5 m. Its access channel is 18 m deep and is equipped with 29 electric container cranes and six Super Post-Panamax gantry cranes capable of handling ships of up to 8,500 teu. Expansion of the second phase will commence when the terminal reaches an annual volume of 1.5m teu, which Goeritz predicts could be achieved in the next five to ten years. Later phases of TCM’s expansion will see it capable of handling ships of 13,000 teu capacity.

* For over 35 years, Container Management has been a reference point for the global container industry, offering accurate and up-to-date information, in-depth analysis and opinion from experienced commentators.

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