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Nicaragua canal: less unlikely

Monday, June 10, 2013

The probability that Nicaragua builds an interocean canal is still remote.

No one yet knows exactly where it would be located, how much impact it could have on the environment, and whether or not shippers will pay fees high enough to finance a project, whose cost is estimated at $40 billion – nearly eight times more than the Panama Canal expansion, scheduled to go into service in 2015

But the concept became less unlikely earlier this month, when President Daniel Ortega sent a bill to Congress, authorizing a Chinese company to build a canal, and to run it for 100 years.

Funds to build the canal would come partly from the Chinese partner, and partly from bond sales.

The Ortega government said that ships would pass through Lake Nicaragua for part of the distance.

A 100-kilometer canal would be needed to connect the lake to the Caribbean Sea.

But the land through which the canal would pass is low and flat, simplifying construction.

Hills separate Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean.

But the elevation is low, such that a cut could be built in any of various places.

Meanwhile, the distance between the Pacific lake and ocean is only 20 kilometers.

A major attraction of a Nicaraguan waterway would its ability to take big vessels.

Even the expanded Panama Canal will be too small for Maersk E-class and future Maersk Triple-E-class container ships, among others.