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FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTLATIN AMERICA


The planned cost of the build is reported to be about USD40 billion, with estimates predicting it will take around 11 years to construct the canal through Nicaragua’s densely forested and hilly terrain – much of which has a high level of ecological importance.


Right now it is early days, pointed out


Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega speaks as Chinese businessman Wang Jing (right) awaits the signing on June 14, 2013, of an agreement giving him the exclusive right to develop the multibillion-dollar Nicaraguan Canal project.


A new way through?


Megan Ramsay, our roving reporter in


LATIN AMERICA


The construction of a shipping canal across Nicaragua linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans has been considered several times over the last few centuries. Now, it seems, the project is under way again – this time with Far Eastern involvement.


ong Kong based infrastructure development firm HKND Group has been selected to handle the proposed massive new Nicaragua Canal – including planning, design, construction, operation and management, plus other potential infrastructure development in Nicaragua – under an agreement ratified by the country’s


H www.heavyliftpfi.com government in June, 2013.


The company said that the Nicaragua Canal and Development Project “is expected to have the capacity to handle the world’s largest ships and meet demand for greater efficiency, lower costs, and increased reliability and safety on important global trade routes, including expected increases in USA to Asia trade”.


Wang Jing, HKND Group chairman. Acknowledging that there is a lot of work ahead, he insisted: “We intend this to be a world-class effort that creates economic opportunity, serves the global trade community, and also protects the local environment, heritage and culture of Nicaragua.” To this end, HKND Group has begun investigating the technological and economic feasibility of constructing a canal in Nicaragua as well as the potential environmental, social and regional implications of various routes.


A spokesman from the company said that a global team of experts has been assembled to advise HKND Group on the development of the Nicaragua Canal and Development Project. China Railway Construction Corporation has been engaged to conduct the initial technical feasibility assessment while McKinsey & Company is providing other research and analysis. In addition: “Environmental Resources Management, one of the world’s leading sustainability consultancies, is independently assessing the environmental and social impact of various routes that are under consideration. We are first awaiting results of the technical, commercial and environmental feasibility studies. Once we have those, we will be able to move forward with a construction timeline,” the spokesman stated.


Compelling argument


Initial findings indicate that growing East-West trade and increasing ship sizes, plus the potential for congestion in the Panama Canal in the coming 10-15 years, provide “a compelling argument for the construction of a second canal, substantially larger than the expanded Panama Canal, across Central America”, a statement said. HKND believes that by 2030 the volume of trade addressable by the Nicaragua Canal will have grown by 240 percent from today, while the annual value of goods transiting the combined Nicaragua and Panama canals could exceed USD1.4 trillion. Furthermore: “The fuel savings provided by the deployment of larger ships on the trade routes served by the Nicaragua Canal


July/August 2013 55


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