How many canals do we need?
Does the world need two canals? or is this purely political?
With the recent advance in negotiations between Nicaragua and the Chinese corporation, HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company, who are bidding to build a canal through Nicaragua to link the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, I am left wondering what will become of the upgraded facilities in Panama if the Nicaraguan project is completed.
The Panamanians are rightfully proud of the existing canal, and most that I have spoken with are firmly behind the construction off the new and larger locks that are well under way, and due for completion in 2015. US, South American and European nations are lauding the Panama expansion, and are busy evaluating what changes their ports and facilities will need to undergo to accommodate the new generation of larger, slower and hopefully more efficient cargo ships.
The existing facilities of the Panama Canal can handle ships 965 feet in length, 106 feet in width with a maximum draft of 39 feet, a size known as Panamax. Once the expansion is complete in 2015, the canal will be able to accommodate ships 1,200 feet in length, 160 feet in width with a 50-foot draft — and already many ships are being built to these new maximum dimensions. There is a great deal of on-line buzz about the impact of these changes, the vast majority concerned only with financial impacts.
The Chinese meanwhile, are making their own arrangements, that given current trends could negate those being made in Panama. It doesn’t take a visionary to see that if the proposed Nicaraguan canal goes to completion, there will be an overwhelming fleet of Chinese built, operated and stocked ships, distributing an ever increasing volume of unnecessary goods to the rest of the world. Manufacturing centralisation will be complete.