Friday, June 14, 2013

CANAL CHOICES

 

There is interesting news in the Maritime world generally today and more particularly here in South Florida which has a large Nicaraguan community.

The Government of Nicaragua has given the Hong Kong Nicaraguan Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd. known as the HKND Group a fifty (50) year concession to survey, develop , design and build a Nicaraguan Canal connecting the Pacific side to the Caribbean side of that country.  This was originally going to be done instead of the Panama Canal as prior to its independence, with considerable United States assistance, did not exist.  It was a province of Columbia from Spanish Colonial days.  As nations in South America became free of empires in general and Spain in particular so various provinces also wanted freedom and the end result for many was as "Banana Republics" under United Fruit and the strong influence of the United States. 

So much for being free of empire building!!

Anyway as we all know the nation of Panama came into existence and we had, until President Carter, an American Canal and Zone across Panama which is now a Panamanian Canal across the Republic of Panama.

So much for an in brief history lesson!!

Nicaragua is a dream nation to build a canal across as there is an enormous lake mostly to the Pacific side to which a locked canal from the Pacific Ocean can be built.  Then by routing to a suitable river of which there are several to select from a route can be developed, complete with suitable locks, to the Caribbean Sea.

There has been considerable discussions with the usual political tensions between Nicaragua and Costa Rica its southern neighbor.  There is a suitable river for development, the San Juan, which largely acts as the border between these two nations.  The "Ticos" as Costa Ricans are known do not want the "Nicas" to develop their canal along that route.  So be it and it has already been announced by the HKND Group that it will not be selected. So where to find a suitable river.  While NAUTICAL LOG is not an engineer it would seem that a third of the way up the Caribbean Coast from the San Juan River is the Escondido River.  The Rio Escondido is already regarded as a major transportation route between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.  It would seem therefore that this might be the developed route.  On the Caribbean side the Rio Escondido enters the sea at the town of Bluefields on the Laguna de Venado all available for port development.  This is an interesting area largely peopled by persons of African descent.  Over the years NAUTICAL LOG has had several crewmembers from this area of Nicaragua, they were English speaking and traditional seafarers.

As to the construction of all this it will be an international project with the experience gained by the Chinese with the Three Gorges Dam complex and their current work expanding the Panama Canal it would seem well within their capability.  Dredging and shaping the Rio Escondido could start with several smaller dredges working from the mouth of river upstream followed by larger dredges deepening and widening, with locks constructed at suitable locations, as the work advanced to Lake Nicaragua and then across it to the point selected for the Pacific connection say around  the town of Rivas.  One of the complications will be the Pan America Highway but then anyone who has seen the bridge that the PAH crosses at the Panama Canal Pacific side knows that it is pretty much a matter of building whatever is needed.

The dredges used would stay as part of the Nicaraguan Canal maintenance equipment as will most machinery brought in.  It is going to be very exciting when this project actually commences construction and we wish it every success.  One of the issues raised by environmentalists is the use of the Lake Nicaragua water to power the locks.  According to them this would cause the depletion of the nations prime source of fresh water which in nor unusual environmentalist seems rather dramatic.  On a quick study this is clearly exaggerated because a closed system could be used to power the locks with only a minimum loss of water on each operation.  In addition the Rio Escondido alone has six (6) tributaries namely Kama River, Mahogany River, Plata River, Rama River, Mico River and Siquia River so that there is a constant resupply of basic water supply.

All these factors and much more will be studied before a final route is selected with construction starting at several points on or about the same time particularly the building of the locks.  Work can then be coordinated to meet at the sites of the locks and connections made to form an ocean-going vessel canal across Nicaragua.

Good Watch.

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