José and 499 others

APM Terminals’ new container facility in Moín, Costa Rica will open for business in 2018. The container port is a completely new industry in the country, and is already creating new jobs and career paths for locals that were not possible before.

Knowledge sharing: Aislan Cardoso (r) Training Manager at APM Terminals, is teaching Costa Rica's first class of ship-to-shore crane operators, such as José Alberto Sterlyn.

José Alberto Sterlyn grips the controls and focuses on the screen in front of him. His hands are shaking ever so slightly as he manoeuvers a container from a truck to a vessel. It is just a simulation, but the nerves and excitement of being here are real.

Sterlyn is training to be one of the new crane operators who will be working in the container yard of APM Terminals Moín on its completion in 2018. However, he also wants to become a trainer. APM Terminals will need 16 trainers to teach the new operators and Sterlyn hopes to be one of those selected to receive the required “trainer training” at APM Terminals Callao, Peru in the coming months. This group of trainers will subsequently train the more than 500 people needed to operate the various machines in the terminal yard.

“It would be a dream for me and my family,” says Sterlyn, a native of Limón, the province surrounding the port of Moín. “To be able to manage equipment with such advanced technology and of such importance to the port and the country, that is something never seen, or done here. It is very special.”

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Watch the story about the brand new container terminal in Limón, Costa Rica 2:23

High level of poverty

  • According to a study carried out by the Costa Rican Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy, 30% of Limon’s roughly 386,862 residents live in poverty and 11% live in extreme poverty, meaning that they cannot meet their basic needs for food, clean water and shelter.

The simulator’s arrival and the training also constitute an important development for Costa Rica as a whole. There is no such training facility or simulator anywhere else in the country so photographers have arrived from various news outlets to capture the scene.

There are many stories to be told here. With its thriving export economy, for one, Costa Rica is one of Latin America’s economic success stories; the new terminal will contribute valuable infrastructural expansion, enabling larger ships to call the port and make it cheaper for the nation to trade and continue its economic growth.
However, on display today at the training centre is the impact of the new terminal on the local population: i.e. the new jobs and career opportunities in the port industry that the facility will bring to the people living in the surrounding province of Limon, one of the country’s poorest areas.

“From a practical viewpoint, right now noone in Costa Rica can operate a Ship-to-Shore (STS) or Rubber Tyred Gantry (RTG) crane. We will be creating the first of those who can,” says Eduardo López, Operations Manager at APM Terminals Moín. “The simulator will allow us to do that, and in the long run this will help improve the remaining port operations of this country. Trainees selected to become trainers will be responsible for getting that process started, and that’s a special responsibility,” he says.

Wanted: great people
In the coming weeks, José Alberto Sterlyn will learn whether he is among the 16 trainee candidates selected to become a trainer. Those selected will undergo training in APM Terminals Callao in Peru next year, before returning to teach the roughly 500 people needed to carry out the operational part of the Moín Container Terminal.

"We currently have a list of 140 potential candidates for the ‘train the trainer’ program. In addition to the operational skills needed in the role, we are also looking for people who are leaders, who can communicate and who have strong values on issues of job safety, respect and teamwork,” says Lisbeth Thomas, Director of Human Resources at APM Terminals Moín.

“If the requirements seem extensive, it’s because we want to have great professionals but we’re also looking for great human beings,” says Thomas.

Whatever happens, the experience has affected Sterlyn and placed him at the beginning of a career path he is excited about.

“Being in the simulator was a rewarding experience. Experiencing all the movement and sounds and feeling the floor vibrate. It must be an amazing experience to be suspended up there, 50 metres above the ground. I have many friends who would also like to handle the huge cranes,” says Sterlyn.

“Thinking about it makes me want to improve myself and to achieve new things. I want this - to be an operator and be part of a change that will have a positive impact on my country.”