Prensa Latina: Nicaragua Canal, Challenges and Benefits of a Mega Project
By: Lianet Arias Sosa (Prensa Latina correspondent in Nicaragua)
Managua, Aug 13 (Prensa Latina) The project of an interoceanic canal across Nicaragua attracts attention toward this Central American country. One of the most impressive infrastructure works of all time is appearing in sight.
The waterway, which aims to link the Atlantic with the Pacific and whose preliminary work began last December, will be 276 kilometers long, 105 of which will pass through the Lake Nicaragua, with a total cost valued at 50 billion dollars.
Authorities expect that its construction will take five years from the start of major construction.
In addition to the canal, there will be an airport, several roads, one free trade zone, several resorts and two ports.
Regarding the construction of the canal itself, Kwok Wai Pang, Executive Vice President of HKND Group, concessionaire of the project, said in an interview with Prensa Latina that it is expected to begin in the last quarter of next year.
The senior official of the company specified that before the main excavation starts, a lot of work on logistics is required.
We need a temporary port for transporting heavy machinery and other materials for the construction, Pang added, pointing out that precisely the terminal to be built as part of the project in Brito, in the Pacific side, will fulfill that function.
We want it to serve as a temporary port during its first phase, and then will expand it to be the final terminal, which, in its final design, has three berths for ships of 25,000 containers, he specified.
About the challenges in building the canal, he exemplified that during the peak phase of the excavation 4.6 million liters of fuel will be needed every day, according to studies conducted by the company´s engineers.
This figure is higher than the total daily consumption in Nicaragua today, he contrasted.
Therefore it is a big problem where to get such huge amount of fuel and where to store it, we also need to transport steel and cement, he confirmed, recalling that the project will move more materials than any other project in the world.
The Executive Vice President of HKND considered that there are many problems in logistics, but solutions always exist.
There are several solutions. What we are looking at is how to reduce the cost by taking each alternative, so it is a subject that is being studied by a team of experts, he clarified.
In relation to the investors interested in the project, he referred to companies in Latin America, China and Europe.
Many businessmen have come to talk with us and with some of them we are in the process of negotiation or reaching a deal, he said.
According to official data, this mega project -considered to be complementary to the Panama Canal-, will have a capacity of at least 5,100 ships per year and capture 5% of total world trade.
Currently, the experts from the Government of Nicaragua are analyzing the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, handed in by HKND on May 31.
INTEROCEANIC WATERWAY AND LATIN AMERICA
The Executive Vice President of HKND Group assured that the construction of the interoceanic canal will promote the creation of job opportunities and bring economic benefits to Latin America.
In that regard, he considered that the maritime terminals to be built in the west end and east of the country as part of the project can promote the logistics and transport industry of the region.
Also, the international airport will facilitate travels from other countries to Nicaragua -which currently offers an airport of this type with limited capacity for landing large aircrafts-, and can boost tourism in the region, he affirmed.
Referring to other economic and social benefits for Nicaragua, he pointed out that the canal will likewise push the so called smokeless industry, especially towards the coastal areas around Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America.
On the other hand, he added, that besides the local workforce can find opportunities, spendings of foreign professionals, experts and technical specialists who come to the country will also promote the economy.
Experts predict that the mega project will double the country's Gross Domestic Product and will generate about 250,000 jobs, including direct and indirect ones.
During the conversation with Prensa Latina, Pang also referred to the land acquisition along the planned canal route, a process in which -he emphasized- HKND Group will be fair.
We will follow international principles and best practices, especially the provisions of the International Finance Corporation, and will take into account the recommendations and opinions of the government of Nicaragua, he said.
He expressed the commitment of his company to build the Grand Canal in a way that it will be a true project of progress for the common good of Nicaragua.
The latest surveys of firms such as M&R Consultores indicate that the vast majority of Nicaraguans approves the construction of the interoceanic waterway, which -the Executive Vice President of HKND stressed- is no longer a dream, but something that people can see and touch in the near future.