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FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTLATIN AMERICA


could be substantial. For example, going from Shanghai to Baltimore, the new route is 4,000 km shorter than the Suez Canal route and 7,500 km shorter than around the Cape of Good Hope,” HKND observed. The company also pointed out that the Nicaragua Canal could improve the efficiency of trade flows from Latin America to Asia as well as facilitating the export of light tight oil (shale oil) from the USA to Asia’s refining centres. This “could create enormous economic benefits for both the USA and Asian countries, including, but not limited to, China”. Wang considered: “Central America is at the centre of North-South and East-West global trade flows, and we believe Nicaragua provides the perfect location for a new international shipping and logistics hub. Global shipping demands the efficiency and cost competitiveness of increasingly larger ships, and we believe this project will serve that still-unmet need. We are confident that this project will be an economic success for Nicaragua, for the region, for trading partners around the globe and for HKND Group.”


The plus side


Carlos Espinales at the Managua office of freight forwarder Seal Trading Supplies agreed with Wang’s view. He felt that the benefits of an alternative to the Panama Canal will be far-reaching. First: “I think this project is necessary, because we always need to have access to alternative routes – especially for shipments that require special handling such as outsize or project cargo,” he said. “This applies particularly to cargo coming from northern Europe to the west coast of North and South America. No doubt the creation of the inter-ocean canal


One prospective route for the new canal.


in Nicaragua could generate an alternative that may be less costly than the existing route (through Panama), which could encourage global commercial growth.” Second, Espinales believes that the wider region around Nicaragua will benefit from this project due to the need for raw materials and human resources that will be supplied from surrounding countries, both in setting up and in operating the canal. Finally, in the more immediate future:


“We are always looking out for opportunities for business and the construction of the canal will be a great chance for us to provide our services and especially our experience in the movement of special cargo. We hope the project gets started soon so that companies like ours, and the whole country in general, can reap the benefits,” Espinales concluded.


But the canal project is not without opposition. Some critics have questioned whether there will really be enough business to keep both the Panama and the Nicaragua canals open – or even, enough to pay for the construction of the Nicaragua Canal in the first place. And environmentalists have already warned of the potential risks to Nicaragua’s drinking water supplies and ecosystems that could result from the project.


Sceptics and critics Source: World Trade Organization, UNESCAP 2012 56 July/August 2013


One political party, the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS – Movimiento de Renovación Sandinista), is particularly vocal. The party objects to the work being given to an “unknown” company and argues that the agreement between President Ortega and HKND could be a moneymaking scam involving a front company, with the intention of selling the concession off piecemeal in the future. It also complains that the project was rushed through Congress and that HKND was selected before a route was decided or any feasibility, environmental or social impact studies were carried out, much less a public consultation process. In summary, the party said: “This swindle that Ortega is trying to pull off robs the Nicaraguan people of their right to decide on the construction of an inter-ocean canal which ... would end up in the hands of a group of false Chinese businessmen and their local associates. It is this type of politician ... that Sandino (founder of the MRS party) used to justly call ‘homeland-sellers’.” HLPFI


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