February 13, 2015—The first seaport terminal in Costa Rica designed primarily for handling grain, a public works project supported by Nathan Associates Inc., officially opened yesterday with a ceremony attended by the country’s president, Louis Guillermo Solís.
The terminal, at Puerto Caldera, will streamline delivery of imported corn, soybeans, wheat, and other bulk farm commodities to buyers in Costa Rica, saving costs. Grain ships previously had to compete with container ships and other cargo vessels at the busy Pacific Coast port.
The $47 million project exemplifies public-private partnerships that Nathan Associates is expert in facilitating. Nathan’s Project Finance Unit, directed by Rafael Enríquez, provided due diligence for the proposed investment, then served as independent engineer for the chief lender, International Bank of Costa Rica SA (BICSA). The project developer, Sociedad Portuaria Granelera de Caldera (SPGC), will operate the port, the government will receive fees, and customers will receive efficient, reliable service.
Construction of the 180-meter-long dock (almost 600 feet) began in February 2013 and was completed at the end of December 2014.The water was dredged to a depth of 16 meters (52 feet), enabling the terminal to accommodate vessels of up to 42,000 dead weight tonnage (DWT)—large enough for dry bulk cargo. Ships offload grain directly into waiting trucks rather than bins or silos. Eventually the terminal could handle other types of cargo if required.
The new terminal is envisioned to handle a significant portion of the country’s grain imports, which have increased in the past several years. While small compared with other Central American ports handling grain, the new terminal at Puerto Caldera enables Costa Rica to import more grain directly.
The Nathan team’s two phases of work on the project began with due diligence on the proposed investment. In that phase, the Nathan team provided an opinion on the concession contract between the government and SPGC; the sponsor’s forecasts for demand and operating revenues; the technical feasibility of the project; the regulatory and economic environment; the proposed operational, insurance and commercial plans; and the main assumptions of the financial model.
In the second phase, the Nathan team inspected construction, approved monthly reports and change orders, and approved lender’s disbursements. Nathan assessed progress of construction against the schedule and budget, and certified that port construction was safe, prudent, and in compliance with good engineering practices as well as the construction and engineering contracts.
Mr. Enríquez is Nathan’s managing director for the Project Finance Unit, which advises lenders, project developers, and other parties on investments in maritime ports, airports, and electric power plants. “The unit’s dual expertise in engineering and finance, along with its many global contacts, means clients receive the integrated support they need to move infrastructure projects from drafting to complete commercial operation,” Mr. Enríquez said.
The Project Finance Unit has been involved in a variety of development projects in Latin America, including in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru, as well as other parts of the world.