Informe Pastran: Interoceanic Canal Continues Moving Forward
· Logistics, Brito Port and locks are being designed based on the on-going studies
The Nicaragua Interoceanic Canal Project, awarded to HKND, is progressing according to schedule and is still alive, HKND group told Informe Pastran. To guarantee a sustainable environment, HKND group concentrated most of its efforts in 2016 on studies and improved designs.
HKND group commissioned Australian geological consulting firm CSA Global Pty, a leading consulting group in the resource industry, to undertake an aerial survey of the proposed canal route, followed by a number of further on-ground investigations and design works. Flights for the geophysical survey covered 34,543 line kilometers over 3,975 sq. km – collecting magnetics and radiometric readings over land and water. LiDAR and photography surveying covered 5,470 sq. km, well beyond the area of interest.
The survey has utilized state of the art techniques to collect very high resolution data which will significantly improve the quality of existing topographic and geophysical data along the canal corridor and around the verges of Lake Nicaragua. The survey will allow assessment of geological risks such as seismic activity, tsunami, volcanic eruption, landslide, slope stability and liquefaction.
HKND group said that the on-going studies are necessary to meet the suggestions and requirements of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) approved by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA), which include assessing seismic risk for the planned canal alignment and confirming that design can meet acceptable seismic risk factors. Results of these studies carried out by CSA Global were used for inputs in the designs on the Brito Port, Canal and Lock designs.
Acid Rocks Drainage studies were also carried out along the canal route to minimize and mitigate any impact.
According to HKND Group, they have also conducted studies with sophisticated navigation and transport simulation this year, which will set the basis for identifying a balanced design for excavation. Key conclusions from these studies include: infrastructure design, optimized canal construction staging, curve radius and minimum straight approaches for ship operators based on navigation studies, traffic modelling and capacity assessment, preliminary review of toll structure and tug operations requirements.
HKND group expressed that they are taking all possible precautions to ensure that the Canal is safe and user friendly for big ships.
Biodiversity Study in Progress
HKND Group is carrying out the works in strict accordance with the recommendations made in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) undertaken by the British company Environmental Resources Management (ERM), which include a complete set of 26 environmental management plans for the canal route. HKND group engaged Nicaraguan environmental NGO FUNDAR to develop the first Biodiversity Management Plans for the Canal.
As part of the environmental plan for the Canal Project, the Biodiversity Management Plans that FUNDAR develops will be focusing on providing biodiversity avoidance, protection, mitigation and compensation procedures and measures for the terrestrial and riverine ecosystems’ management along the canal corridor, as well as Action Plans for the freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems in Brito area in Rivas to ensure that the Project will achieve a Net Positive Impact on forests and the wildlife along the canal route.
Bill Wild, Chief Project Advisor of HKND Group, indicated: “Environmental protection is one of the most important aspects of the Canal Project.”
Lake Bathymetry under Tender
Further study of the depth and geography of the lakebed along the canal route in Lake Nicaragua will be conducted to optimize the canal construction design, dredging quantities and sequence and accurately model the sedimentation and salinity in the lake. Six specialized companies around the world have participated in this international tender. Results will be announced in the beginning of 2017.
This study will use a vessel with GPS/GNSS and wave meter to establish marine datum, deliver echo sounder mapping of the approaches and lake, identify material properties of the lake bottom and conduct lab test to confirm material properties.
Logistics Support Planning in Progress
HKND group said: “during construction phase, logistics service requirements are enormous. We have to create a supply chain for the major works, supplying fuel, power and other construction materials, as well as the workers camps and catering, among others.”
“Just to give an example, during the peak phase of the excavation, 4.6 million liters of fuel will be needed per day, which equals to the fuel consumption of one day for the whole of Nicaragua. Therefore, we must ensure that we have sufficient storage space, obtain transportation, build roads, and so on. Initial works for the logistic support includes a temporary port at Brito with fuel storage facilities and a set of construction roads. Reference design of the port is in progress,” the company highlighted.
West Lock in Progress
Belgian consultancy SBE has already completed an initial study on lock operation. The main focus of this study included: lock capacities, lock dimensions, lock constructability, gates, tugs vs mules, water saving basins, and economics of the different options.
“We just started working with SBE, who has designed nearly all the big locks around the world. Key objective is to reach Reference Design levels with further studies on hydrology, water balance and salinity to guarantee the security of the lock systems with the highest international safety standards. Drilling of the West Lock to supply geotechnical information for the Lock Reference Design will commence early 2017,” HKND said.
Brito Port for Bring in Heavy Machinery
HKND Group highlighted that they were preparing a first phase of port facilities on the pacific side to bring in heavy machinery and the materials, including fuel required by the project, to ensure the construction.
“The British company BMT has completed an integrated port canal operation plan at the Pacific entrance, giving us optimized canal operation capacity and expansion staging in line with canal economics and demand.”
HKND Group pointed out that BMT is in progress on the reference design for the first phase of Brito Port. “We faced some challenge here due to the deep seismic materials identified by our geological studies. Some delay is encountered on reference design for the Pacific entrance due to the deep seismic materials identified by our geological studies.
“The Soil Investigation Program is necessary to identify in more detail the geology, geotechnical features, hazards and material properties along the canal corridor. The information, taken together, will assist us to optimize the design in geotechnical risk assessment terms and to improve the accuracy of our cost estimation and works scheduling.”
Attaching Great Importance to Environmental and Social Programs
In July 2016, HKND Group held an Educational Tree Planting Activity in primary and secondary schools in Rivas Department. During this event, the company invited professors and students from National Agrarian University (UNA) to deliver reforestation workshops and training sessions to primary and secondary school students in Rivas Department, and teach the school kids to plant trees on their campuses. 80 schools participated in this tree planting activity. 160 directors and teachers took part in the reforestation training. 3,000 students planted trees on their campuses. 15,000 students and their parents of Rivas Department were involved, covering 100% of the primary and secondary schools in this department.
Meanwhile, HKND group collaborates with National Agrarian University (UNA) to build nursery, supporting the environmental protection education, as well as to provide seedlings for the reforestation of the Canal Project. The nursery’s annual production will be 50,000 seedlings.
Archaeological Investigation Successfully Completed
Archaeological work in Brito has yielded substantial achievement. Historic relics suffered from mangrove progradation and salt water intrusion were investigated, excavated, collected and preserved to the maximum extent possible by archaeologists. The investigation provides valuable information for the study of pre-Columbian era in Nicaragua history, and serves as an important reference for the further development of anthropology, history and archaeology of Central America.
Prof. Sagrario Balladares, Coordinator of CADI at UNAN-Managua explained, “It is worth noting that this is a very meaningful opportunity. By means of these archaeological studies that are to be conducted along the Grand Canal route, new contributions, new data and new interpretations for the national and regional history will be achieved.”
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