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Nicaragua Canal set to launch construction tenders in September

Nicaragua Canal set to launch construction tenders in September
Progress on the controversial Nicaraguan canal continues and tenders are set to be launched in September for major infrastructure such as ports and design of the locks.

The Executive Secretary of the Commission of the Nicaraguan Grand Interoceanic Canal Paul Oquist saaid tenders could be called in September for the design of locks, earth movement, dredging and ports.  

Construction of the future canal would conclude in March 2020, Oquist told the audience of a Latin Markets’ conference on Central America and Caribbean projects and infrastructure held in Panama.

The canal would be 278km-long, three times longer than the Panama Canal, and will include two ports, an airport, a free zone, a resort and housing facilities.

The works are estimated to cost around $50bn and once built the Nicaraguan canal would see transiting vessels of up to 25,000 teu and would require 90 km of land excavation and 25.3km of dredging, and two locks measuring 520 m by 75 m by 27.6 m, the largest locks in the world. The Pacific (Brito) locks would be constructed 14 km inside the waterway with anti-seismic specifications.

Nicaraguan officials said they started the project in December by beginning to build access roads, in spite of domestic opposition to the project.

Hong Kong infrastructure development firm HKND, which is led by telecoms billionaire Wang Jing, is in charge of the project. Many have raised doubts about the proposal’s source of financing, since HKND has not revealed where it is going to obtain capital for the endeavour. Oquist did not disclose where would the financing come from.  Moreover, no information has been released on the feasibility studies and the viability of the future Canal.

Opposition to the project comes from abroad and at home in Nicaragua, due to fears of a potential environmental disaster since Lake Nicaragua is the main source of drinking water for the country.

Oquist’s declarations coincided with the announcement by the Nicaraguan Institute ofCulture (INC) than more than 15,000 pre-Colombian artifacts dating from 500 BC had been discovered on the future route of the Interoceanic Canal.

According to Oquist, some 50,000 jobs would be created during the phase of the construction, and around 100,000 people could be employed in the different free and industrial zones that will be established near the two terminals-Puerto Aguila on the Atlantic and Puerto Brito on the Pacific.

Nicaragua’s economic growth was 4% in 2014; forecast for 2015 is at 4.7% and 4.9% in 2016 but could jump to double digits if the interoceanic canal comes to life, said Oquist.

The Panama Canal will inaugurate next year its third set of locks and if demand requires, could begin studies in 2020 for the construction of a fourth set of locks next to its future third lane, with preliminary cost estimated at $10bn.