Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Chinese tycoon Wang Jing (王靖) on Saturday said plans to start building a US$40 billion canal across the Central American country were on track for late this year.
Wang Jing’s Beijing Interoceanic Canal Investment Management Co has secured the right to dig a waterway in Nicaragua that will rival the Panama Canal and be hugely significant to world trade if it is completed.
Ortega gave the group a concession to operate the future waterway for 50 years, renewable for another 50.
“The Nicaraguan government and HKND Group are pleased to confirm that canal construction work will begin as planned in December 2014,” the two said in a brief statement.
Their remarks appeared aimed at shooting down any idea of a delay. Nicaragua’s Canal Authority president Manuel Coronel Kautz recently was quoted as saying work would not start on the Nicaraguan waterway until next year.
It is the biggest infrastructure project by far attempted under the government of Ortega. It would have huge strategic value, potentially interrupting commerce in Panama’s waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific.
Panama is currently expanding its century-old canal and the massive project is running behind schedule.
The Panamanian upgrade aims to make that 80km waterway, which handles 5 percent of global maritime trade, big enough to handle new cargo ships that can carry 12,000 containers.