21 Jun 2013
Chinese to build 'second Panama Canal' in Nicaragua
Nicaragua’s government has given the green light to a proposal for a canal connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
President, Daniel Ortega said it would bring ‘prosperity’ to the South American country, after Nicaraguan Congress approved the plan by a vote ratio of 61 to 28.
The $40bn (£25bn) plan is to be carried out by a Chinese company, reports the BBC, which adds that a Nicaragua Canal has long been a cherished hope of the country. The Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. have the 50-year concession to build the waterway.
Though principally of interest to shipping trade routes, it would also offer an alternative to the busy Panama Canal shipping route for superyachts looking to dissect the Americas.
Jan Maarten Boissevain, sales manager at Sevenstar Yacht Transport, is positive about the popularity of the route from the Pacific to Atlantic Ocean, but feels the construction of an alternative is a moot point.
“Americans love to go from East Coast to West Coast – we did a shipment last month and have another in two weeks. It’s a huge market.”
But, there is "no need" for another route for vessels, from either a demand or a cost side. "Panama Canal is not that expensive – around $US50-60,000 dollars, but that’s not going to change when Nicaragua makes a canal, as they will charge the same."
More pertinent and the motive for the Chinese building the canal, believes Boissevain, is its strategy to gain control of a massively powerful trade route. Panama Canal is controlled by the Americans and Chinese control of a separate waterway would ensure assets and trade routes are secured.
“The Chinese want to do it so they won’t be in the hands of the Americans. It’s not a commercial decision, to make money, it’s about safeguarding assets and continuous flow of food imports [from South America and west Africa].”
It’s yet another example of the purchasing power of the Chinese seen in frequent examples across the globe.
A waterway in Nicaragua would take a long time to build, however. Ironically, if it were to open now, there could be some use for it from a superyacht market perspective:
Panama’s expansion project (ending in 2015) is causing some delays, said Boissevain, though nothing more than a day at present. "A second option would be good for yacht transport companies", he said.
"They are starting to make these things bigger and wider, so the ships won’t sail over the capes and burn a lot of bunkers, but sail via the canal which will save fuel and be kinder on the environment," he explained of the eight-year widening project. "The canals know how much it costs to sail ten days extra though, and they will charge you a big chunk of that."
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