China to build a new canal in Central America


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The competition heats up: With approval from Nicaragua, China has inched closer to beginning construction of a new canal that would connect the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

A month ago, a Nicaraguan committee approved Chinese billionaire Wang Jing’s project to create The Nicaraguan Canal. With a planned capacity to accommodate ships with loaded displacement of 400,000 tons (notably bigger than The Panama Canal), the proposed 278-kilometer-long canal that will run across the Nicaragua isthmus would probably change the landscape of the world’s maritime trade.

“The project is the largest infrastructure project ever in the history of man in terms of engineering difficulty, investment scale, workload and its global impact,” Wang told reporters, adding that with regard the project’s financing, which is around $50 billion, Wang seems quite confident, “If you can deliver, you will find all the world’s money at your disposal.”

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16 comments

  • DK Williams

    Impressive.

  • Competential

    China’s investments in less developed countries are great for entire human kind. The former colonial powers of Europe has completely neglected the economic potential in especially Africa, and I think that the US could’ve had a much better relationship with Latin America.

  • geoffc

    Go read McCollough’s Panama Canal book about how hard the first one was. Best of luck China, this is not as easy as it may seem. :) I wish them luck.

  • raven

    We have the technology to make creating a canal safer and more efficient, but there are still the same issues present in this region: weather and insect borne diseases. I wish them well in this endeavor; this canal, if completed, will be a great benefit to all.

  • Cotour

    Africa has much in the way of natural resources but IMO lacks a certain human component. In other words in the big picture view there is nothing in place that counter balances the nature of man and therefore the only end result can be massive fraud and corruption. These heavily tribal cultures can only clash and any investment made, again, IMO, has a much higher failure rate looking at it in pure business terms.

    Our president’s philosophy is IMO closely tied to this kind of tribal think and does not and can not distinguish between the advantages that occur due to the results of Americas geographical location and the existence of our Constitution (American exceptionalism). Africa, like most other locations on the planet are not and can not be paralleled with America and to assume that it is naive IMO.

    The end result being the abuse of power by the few over the many, not like here in America, and in the end we in America may be the biggest stooges related to the power of the few over the many, but by multiples of times. Conclusion? The democratization of Africa, which is what would be called for if indeed these goals were to be successful in the big picture will never be possible. And so the wheels spin and the confusion persists.

    Just my opinion.

  • David M. Cook

    There was a postage stamp issued in the 19th century, showing an active volcano in Nicaragua. This lent support to the Panama plan, for obvious reasons! I wonder if Mr. Jing has seen this? Also, this reminds me of a great palindrome, “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama”.

  • Competential

    There is a new generation of middle class in Africa. They are online and has traveled globally. I think people will be surprised to see Africa rising like India and China has. They have disadvantages and will likely not become world leading. But things will likely improve dramatically. Because of the utterly failed policies of the Western world, the Africans look as much to China, India, Dubai as they do to the old Western world.

  • Cotour

    I can agree to an extent, but still the underlying visceral DNA foundation of their tribal cultural structure exists at their core and will continue to exist and will always, and I disdain using the word “always”, be present and will tend to undermine their progress. Their immersion in their culture and their location is their biggest hurdle. And it is very high.

    The Western world is more of an intellectualized society and the Eastern / African societies are connected more with the DNA reality perspective. There are two realities that human exist in, the biological / DNA reality and the intellectualized reality of which the Western sensibilities (and manipulations) exist.

  • Cotour

    What an engineering / plan bummer it would be to dig a really big hole and run into a volcano. Good observation.

  • Pzatchok

    I had no idea that the Panama canal was over loaded with traffic to a point that a new larger one would be needed. Like a second lane on a free way.

    One thing about the Panama canal is that it has been around so long it has directly influenced the maximum size of ships being constructed.
    Aircraft carriers are even limited to this size.
    The Suez Canal set its width because to the size of ships being built for the Panama canal.
    Supper tankers and cargo ships are all built to this maximum size.

    The only reason to make it wider is to give access to larger ships. Which I see no reason for. If they just want to take over half the traffic from the Panama canal they only need to big it at the same size as the Panama canal.
    If they only want to double the trans ship capacity of central America they only need to build it the same width. Like adding an extra lane to double the traffic.

    But building a canal in a totally different location might make real sense if they wanted to do it for tactical or strategic reasons. Shutdown the Panama canal somehow and force everyone to use their new canal or just let their ships use the new canal.

    They could just run a new canal right next to the old one. Its still the shortest and easiest rout through central America. Much of the canal is actual natural lakes which cut construction costs WAY down.

  • From what I understand, the shipping industry has been building ships that are too wide for the Panama Canal for many decades. They have even found it in some cases more cost effective to use these larger ships to ship cargo around Cape Horn rather than use a smaller ship through the canal.

    The industry has very much wanted the canal to be upgraded or replaced for this reason.

  • Pzatchok

    I can see that.

    A larger ship is more cost efficient. I don’t think they can go much longer and stay safe and going taller is out because that just means cheaper also, so they have to go wider to keep going longer.

    And as always its their cash. if they want to do it they can.

    I’m just not too thrilled about the idea of a single ship getting that big and still crewed by the same amount of men. One wreck and its just a bigger problem.

  • Edward

    There is a project to build new locks to handle larger ships through the Panama Canal. Shipping companies started building non-Panama ships several decades ago, and the Canal decided to accommodate them, too.

    However, there are even larger container ships, being built now, which don’t fit the upgraded Panama Canal. Whether there will be enough ship traffic to keep the Nicaraguan Canal in business has yet to be seen.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Container_ships#Size_categories

    I think, though, that both canals compete with US railroads and ports, as a lot of shipping is offloaded onto trains in the US, shipped to ports across the continent, and reloaded onto ships.

  • Pzatchok

    ” that just means cheaper also”

    meant deeper not cheaper.

    Dang fat fingers and auto spell correct.

  • Only $50 Billion? That’s almost a rounding error in the US Federal budget. Even if the cost doubles (likely), that’s still relatively inexpensive given the demand. Should this canal see completion, Panama and the Chinese should profit greatly.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Quite correct Robert. The largest “Panamax” warships ever built in the U.S> were the Iowa class battleships and the Essex-class carriers. Post-WW2 U.S. fleet carriers were all too big to get through the Panama canal, especially the Nimitz-class supercarriers. The largest tankers and container ships have been too big to use the Panama Canal since the late 60’s at least. Even run-of-the-mill ships of these types these days are too big.

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