Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nicaragua Breaks Ground on Panama Canal Rival

By Mark Edward Nero

The Central American country Nicaragua broke ground Dec. 22 on a new Chinese-backed shipping canal that aims to rival the Panama Canal. The $50 billion, 172-mile canal could be operational by the year 2020, according to the Nicaraguan government.

The Nicaragua Canal aims to connect the Caribbean Sea, and therefore the Atlantic Ocean, with the Pacific Ocean. The proposed route starts from the mouth of the Brito river on the Pacific Ocean side, passes through Lake Nicaragua, and ends in the Punta Gorda river on the Caribbean.

The proposed canal would be up to 1,706 feet wide and 90 feet deep. By contrast, the 48 mile-long Panama Canal is 110 feet wide, and 41.2 feet in depth.

Construction of the new waterway is to be run by Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., commonly known as HKND Group; the company is run by Chinese telecom mogul Wang Jing.

“This moment will surely go down in history. I announce the start of work on the great canal of Nicaragua,” Wang Jing said during a Dec. 22 groundbreaking event, which was held on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast.

Despite the groundbreaking and the start of work on Dec. 29, excavation work isn’t scheduled to begin until the second half of 2015.

Although a Chinese company is managing the project, Nicaraguan officials have maintained that the Chinese government itself isn’t behind the project and that the canal is expected to receive international funding.

“The Chinese haven’t arrived in Nicaragua with occupying troops,” Nicaragua President Daniel Oretga said regarding the canal in a speech in late December.