Nicaragua confident on canal plan

Nicaragua’s canal will break ground in December and will be a multinational project, not an all-Chinese operation, according to a high-ranking official in Nicaragua’s government.

Dr Paul Oquist, private secretary of national policy for Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, provided new details on the canal scheme in a presentation to the Caribbean Shipping Association conference and in an interview with IHS Maritime.

A common perception in shipping circles is that if ever built, the $40-$50Bn mega-project would be funded by Chinese interests, constructed using imported Chinese labour, and operated with a favouritism towards Chinese shipping companies.

“Quite frankly, the Chinese could finance all of this but we’ve agreed with them that this is not the way to go,” said Oquist. “We want ‘rainbow’ investment – investments from China, Japan and Korea, from Wall Street, the City of London and Frankfurt, from Venezuela and Brazil.”

The project’s financial and economic feasibility study is scheduled to be delivered this month by McKinsey & Co. “When that is available, it will be sent to the financial community,” he explained.

“We want firms from all over the world to participate in the financing, the bidding for concessions and the construction,” Oquist continued. “We want it to be as broad-based as possible. This is not going to be a Chinese turnkey project where they bring in all of the workers, ever last nail and every last noodle.”

The Nicaraguan law that created the canal authority and granted the concession to Hong Kong’s HKND Group also “guarantees the neutrality and universal utility nature of the canal”, he noted, meaning that no country’s ships would receive preference.

Oquist also reconfirmed the project’s aggressive schedule: five years to completion with ground to be broken in December. Initial work would be comprised of creating port space to land heavy equipment in Brito on the Pacific side, prior to the project’s full financing.

Source and Picture credit: IHS Maritime 360

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