A popular cruise itinerary during the winter season is travelling from the Caribbean Sea through the Panama Canal to the Pacific side of the Western Hemisphere. Apart from going through the canal, the only other alternative is to travel to the southernmost tip of South America and around the Cape Horn. However this is not feasible due to the time it would take and many safety issues.
The Nicaraguan government and developers have recently announced the details behind a proposed 23-billion-pound canal project. This budget is four times the national gross domestic product (GDP) of Nicaragua.
The HKND group have been appointed to run the project and their chief engineer, Dong Yunsong, stated that the company considered six various routes before deciding upon their final choice. The plan has the canal beginning at the Brito River’s mouth and traveling across 65 miles of Lake Nicaragua from the Pacific Ocean coast. On the other side of the lake, it will continue until it reaches Bluefields Bay on the Caribbean side.
The Environmental Issues are still unclear
Environmentalists are worried about the implications of the route, but there have been no formal disruptions to the project as of yet.
Dong Yunsong evaded mentioning anything about the environmental impact the project would have during the groups presentation.
He did say that the canal would not have any notable effect on water levels in or affect any of the population residing near the lakes and rivers involved in the project. He did state, “The channel will use mainly the water in the basin of the river Punta Gorda, which is sufficient to operate the channel” . He also said an area of 154 square miles will be set aside with the formation of an artificial lake after the construction of the canal.
This is not the first time that Nicaragua and others in the area have considered building a canal. The idea has been discussed for many years with its original blueprint created in the 16th century. The biggest hurdle as to why it was never started before was always down to finances.
Even today this is going to be the biggest obstacle. The fact remains that the canal surpasses the 49 mile Panama Canal in length and is estimated to be 173 miles in total. There are many who are concerned that the budget for this project is not realistic and could exceed the 70-billion-pound mark.
And of course, the developers will need to study more carefully the environmental impact concerning Lake Nicaragua, which is Central America’s largest source of freshwater.
The Canal could benefit the Country in the long term
Others will argue that the canal will benefit the country immensely. By becoming a major shipping channel, exports between nations will have faster arrival times. It is will raise the GDP of Nicaragua and the country will prosper. The government feels it will be worth it to help create jobs and alleviate the six million Nicaraguans out of the poverty level they now have.
How soon will the canal be a fact? Whilst still subject to environmental and social impact studies, it appears the installation will start towards the end of this year. The project will take approximately five years to complete with the first ship tentatively scheduled to pass through in 2020.
For cruise passengers, this will open up new destinations in Central America and will serve as an alternative to the traditional Panama Canal cruise holiday. Perhaps, the cruise line will do it as a bilateral sailing going one way with one canal and returning via the other. During the presentation, it was explained that the planned canal will be capable of handling the largest mega ships that are a feature of today’s cruise industry.
Written by Veronica Shine