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With Chinese Investment, Nicaraguan Passage Could Dwarf Panama Canal

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the start-digging dept.

Businesses 322

Nicaragua is now home to the early stages of one of the largest infrastructure projects on earth, plans for which have been raising questions for some time now. In a move that will affect global trade in the long term, "A Chinese telecom billionaire has joined forces with Nicaragua's famously anti-American president to construct a waterway between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean to rival the Panama Canal. The massive engineering undertaking would literally slice through Nicaragua and be large enough to accommodate the supertankers that are the hallmark of fleets around the world today." (Here's a related article with a bit more on the project from Wang Jing, the Chinese telecoms entrepreneur now also at the head of the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co.) One potential problem with the canal: disruption of surfing in Nicaragua.

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Money pit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47623757)

I guess the Chinese need to learn the hard way how expensive and difficult a proposition this will be. The Panama canal nearly bankrupted America.

Re:Money pit (4, Informative)

Stargoat (658863) | about 2 months ago | (#47623835)

I think you might want to review your history. The first French attempt under La Société internationale du Canal interocéanique almost brought France to its knees. It also was in large part responsible for a disturbing wave of antisemitism that swept France, as Jews were blamed for so much of the corruption.

A Nicaragua canal would in many ways be better than a Panama canal. Although the distance is quite a bit longer, there would be less of a need for locks than are used on the Panama canal.

Re:Money pit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624285)

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I was fiddling around on my computer and visiting various news websites, as I often did. Eventually, I stumbled across an advertisement that looked interesting, so I clicked it. A popup from some antivirus program I didn't know I had made me realize that I had made a grave mistake. I may not have known much about computers, but I knew that that wasn't normal; it was malware.

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Re:Money pit (1)

JMJimmy (2036122) | about 2 months ago | (#47623949)

Panama didn't have the benefit of the massive machines available now. It will likely be much cheaper compartitively.

What I find interesting is the complete disregard for some amazing sites. Las Lajas River has this: http://www.beautifulplacesguid... [beautifulplacesguide.com] three of the four proposed routes for the 3rd section head through a national reserve. The shortest route of course splits the reserve in half. http://www3.varesenews.it/imma... [varesenews.it]

Re:Money pit (3, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 2 months ago | (#47623983)

Because China has a wonderful record on industrial pollution, and Central America has a wonderful record on fiscal responsibility and accountable government.

Re:Money pit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624297)

The parent post was modded redundant. Why, is it because it stated obvious but not politically correct facts?

Re:Money pit (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47624129)

Panama didn't have the benefit of the massive machines available now. It will likely be much cheaper compartitively.

We are also much better at dealing with tropical diseases. Malaria and yellow fever were major problems during the construction of the Panama Canal.

why'd you have to bring gay porn into this? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624545)

yellow fever

So schedules will slide because the Nicaraguans are all busy humping the Chinese construction workers?

Re:Money pit (5, Interesting)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 2 months ago | (#47624707)

Well at the time they were using the most massive equipment available to the point that a whole new class of steam shovels was created specifically for the project. They were rail mounted 105 ton (US tons and that is the vehicle weight not capacity) steam shovels. You can see one of the 6 prototypes for the project here [mininghist...iation.org] . It has a 2 1/2 cubic yard bucket instead of the original 5 cubic yard one (changed because the iron ore was substantially denser) and was also converted to crawler tracks to run in the iron mines of northern Minnesota but is the only remaining one of the prototypes. While this shovel never worked on the Panama Canal the only other surviving example of this type of shovel that may have is in much worse shape and exists in upstate new york [wikipedia.org] . They were built on a 40' railroad box car which houses the boiler with an additional 8' added on to the back for a coal hopper with the boom and arm attached to the front.

Re:Money pit (2)

dywolf (2673597) | about 2 months ago | (#47624783)

ooo pretty. thanks to you sir i now wish to visit a cathedral in nicaragua.

Re:Money pit (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 months ago | (#47624027)

"I guess the Chinese need to learn the hard way how expensive and difficult a proposition this will be. "

.

China has poured 47% more concrete in the last 3 years than the US has poured in the last century [wired.com] . They know how to build.

The Panama Canal was dug around 1910. In 1910, about 38% of Americans were employed in agriculture... now it is under 2%. In other words, humankind is radically better at things like "moving dirt." There is no comparison.

Re:Money pit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624243)

Unfortunately even if they know how to build they often don't do it right. They are infamous for their twenty to thirty year buildings especially with residential construction - and that involves apartment complexes. If they're smart they'd make it to last however corruption and cutting corners has a way of making things shoddy and has given them a reputation for shoddiness.

Re:Money pit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624483)

Unfortunately even if they know how to build they often don't do it right. They are infamous for their twenty to thirty year buildings especially with residential construction - and that involves apartment complexes. If they're smart they'd make it to last however corruption and cutting corners has a way of making things shoddy and has given them a reputation for shoddiness.

Are you talking about the US homebuilders or the Chinese?

Re:Money pit (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 months ago | (#47624647)

When was the last time an American School collapsed in an earthquake and the 'crete was found to be a substantial part straw?

Chinese are generally polite people, which gave that much more impact to the grieving mother telling the government asshole to 'investigate his mothers cunt'.

Which isn't saying new construction standards in America aren't cheap beyond reason and most of the trades dominated by mouth breathing drunks and tweakers.

Re:Money pit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624809)

An iconic American landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York was almost completely fucked by the substitution of rotten wire by a corrupt contractor. There's not much about it on the Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] but there's some stuff here [google.com] .

Actually, I'm shocked by how little there is to find about this online. Revisionist history anyone?

Re:Money pit (2)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 2 months ago | (#47624347)

and it did Bankrupt the French. I hope everyone has read "A Path Between the Seas"

Re:Money pit (3, Insightful)

u19925 (613350) | about 2 months ago | (#47624585)

Plus the amount of money to be made will be less as you already have Panama canal. The average price will fall which will reduce Panama canal's profit but for them there is not much cost involved and hence the impact will be minimal. However, the lower rate can bankrupt Nicaragua canal. I wonder if they are self financing or are they able to get debt for such a risky project.

Re:Money pit (3, Informative)

westlake (615356) | about 2 months ago | (#47624727)

The Panama canal nearly bankrupted America.

Nonsense.

The Panama Canal cost Americans around $375,000,000, including the $10,000,000 paid to Panama and the $40,000,000 paid to the French company. It was the single most expensive construction project in United States history to that time. Fortifications cost extra, about $12,000,000.

Amazingly, unlike any other such project on record, the American canal had cost less in dollars than estimated, with the final figure some $23,000,000 below the 1907 estimate, in spite of landslides and a design change to a wider canal.

Even more amazing is that this huge, complex and unprecedented project was carried out without any of the scandal or corruption that often plagues such efforts, nor has any hint of scandal ever come to light in subsequent years.

There was, of course, also a cost in lives. According to hospital records, 5,609 lives were lost from disease and accidents during the American construction era. Adding the deaths during the French era would likely bring the total deaths to some 25,000 based on an estimate by Gorgas. However, the true number will never be known, since the French only recorded the deaths that occurred in hospital.

END OF THE CONSTRUCTION [pancanal.com]

Panama Canal took 33 years, 4 countries (2)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 months ago | (#47623805)

France, US, Columbia, and Panama. Jungle diseases of workers was a huge problem at beginning.

Re:Panama Canal took 33 years, 4 countries (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47623911)

When they started Panama and Colombia were a single country. The independency for Panama movement was bankrolled and organized by the France and the U.S in order to reduce costs and to avoid government regulations for the canal construction

Re:Panama Canal took 33 years, 4 countries (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 months ago | (#47624663)

First time I've heard bribes described as 'government regulations'.

Re:Panama Canal took 33 years, 4 countries (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 months ago | (#47623971)

France, US, Columbia, and Panama. Jungle diseases of workers was a huge problem at beginning.

The Panama Canal was built in the early 1900's. The issues you speak of can be adequately addressed with modern knowledge. The main issue will still be engineering.

It might be nice to see a different mind-set break the Western hold on shipping transit.

Re:Panama Canal took 33 years, 4 countries (2)

speed_rrracer (802714) | about 2 months ago | (#47624145)

Different is not necessarily better

The result could be far worse than anything we currently envision. The Chinese track record for human rights violations as well as environmental destruction is well documented. Let's not even mention that active volcano they have right smack in the middle of the planned route... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org] or the others nearby: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

Also, it will seriously impact Nicaragua's sustainable & (generally) environmentally-friendly surf tourism industry.

French started in 1881, US finished 1914 (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 months ago | (#47624229)

problems dragged it out

Re:Panama Canal took 33 years, 4 countries (1)

mspohr (589790) | about 2 months ago | (#47624191)

The early construction of the canal was greatly hampered by malaria. The final success of the canal was really only possible once malaria was controlled. From the CDC website:
"The result of this malaria program was eradication of yellow fever and a dramatic decrease in malaria deaths. The death rate due to malaria in employees dropped from 11.59 per 1,000 in November 1906 to 1.23 per 1,000 in December 1909. It reduced the deaths from malaria in the total population from a maximum of 16.21 per 1,000 in July 1906 to 2.58 per 1,000 in December 1909."
"The Panama Canal was the construction miracle of the beginning of the 20th century. It also was a great demonstration of malaria control based on an integrated mosquito control program enforced by the military. Malaria was not eliminated. However, under these most trying conditions, the disease was controlled to the extent that the construction work could be completed."

Re:Panama Canal took 33 years, 4 countries (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 2 months ago | (#47624393)

No, Yellow Fever was the Big Problem. I think it killed the wife and daughter of the guy in charge

Re:Panama Canal took 33 years, 4 countries (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | about 2 months ago | (#47624405)

Yeah but take a look at the construction photos like this one [pancanal.com] . A modern construction crew with huge excavators [etifiresystems.com] and trucks [ytimg.com] would be in a whole different league.

Re:Panama Canal took 33 years, 4 countries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624807)

Yeah but take a look at the construction photos like this one [pancanal.com]

Wow, and we thought construction was top heavy now; we see 1 guy working and 4-5 guys "supervising." In this photo I see 1-2 guys working and over 20 "supervising!" We've improved quite a bit...

Re:Panama Canal took 33 years, 4 countries (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 months ago | (#47624609)

France, US, Columbia, and Panama. Jungle diseases of workers was a huge problem at beginning.

What they dug the panama canal with:
http://www.corbisimages.com/im... [corbisimages.com]

Modern version:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

See your mistake?

Chinese telecom billionaire (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 months ago | (#47623855)

Wait... Isn't China a Communist country?

Re:Chinese telecom billionaire (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47623913)

Welcome to this century!

Re:Chinese telecom billionaire (2)

tippe (1136385) | about 2 months ago | (#47623961)

I'm totally just guessing here, but perhaps it's only communist for those who can't afford to grease the right palms...

Re:Chinese telecom billionaire (4, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 months ago | (#47623999)

That just sets you up for the obvious "so it's just like US?" finisher :D

Re:Chinese telecom billionaire (1)

tippe (1136385) | about 2 months ago | (#47624113)

touché!

Re:Chinese telecom billionaire (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624509)

Nah the United States is the opposite. It is only communist if you can afford to grease the right palms which gets your business propped up after even the most disastrous decisions.

Re:Chinese telecom billionaire (4, Informative)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 2 months ago | (#47623991)

It's a one party state where that one party is the Communist Party.

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping started economic reforms that transitioned China from a Maoist country full of subsistence farmers to the economic powerhouse it is today. To be truly Communist, the state has to own pretty much everything. Their new model allows individuals to own lots of things, and profit from them, but the state retains control when they want it.

Re:Chinese telecom billionaire (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 months ago | (#47624555)

Debating what is and isn't communist is one of those pointless questions that exists only to create debate.

Under Marx one thing was meant.
Under Lenin, another.
Under Mao, a third.
And by the time Russia got to Stalin, they were already pushing the "we're not communist, yet" lie pretty hard.

The one thing that can be said for sure is that no nation ever actually fit the definition that exists only in the collective consciousness of the American right wing, where taxes are used as a means of establishing dominance and control over individuals, like a pack of wolves.

Re:Chinese telecom billionaire (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 months ago | (#47624313)

Yes, the comunist country China is making billions and spending them investing in 3rd world countries, while the USA is out to prevent capitalistic competition. The USA has been more communistic than China for 20 years now. Maybe a few more projects like this and someone will notice.

think big, plan for future (5, Interesting)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 2 months ago | (#47623871)

My impression is Chinese are thinking big plans for future. Way back in late 1800s early 1900s US was thinking same thing: Panama Canal was a huge project with lots of opportunity for failure. But reaped benefits for decades after. Also Chinese have lots of cash and putting it into big projects (ok some will fail but whatever they will secure strategic advantage). Meanwhile US put lots of resources into backwards countries with not much to show for it.

Re:think big, plan for future (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 2 months ago | (#47623929)

Due the fact that the panama canal is now too small for modern tankers, something like this needs to be done. If only the US would step up and do things like this.. it's in our best interest! Monroe Doctrine!

Re:think big, plan for future (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624093)

Looking at the map, I don't see why we couldn't do this with Mexico. Although looking at Nicaragua, it's really, really, incredibly flat compared to some of the other countries down there.

Re:think big, plan for future (-1, Troll)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 2 months ago | (#47624173)

well, Mexico has already sent all their laborers north, so there's no one in country to do the construction. And it's not like they would let Nicaraguan's into the country for construction. Realistically, they'd have to build at least 50 Home Depots in the new canal zone to attract the necessary laborers -- Really the Chinese plan is more feasible.

Re:think big, plan for future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624185)

I remember there are huge trains (several kilometers long) that transport containers from West Coast to East Coast, as the ships themselves are too big for the Panama Canal. Maybe with this new canal, there will not be a need for transshipment, which is an expensive and time consuming undertaking.

Not so fast (1)

PPalmgren (1009823) | about 2 months ago | (#47624461)

The panama canal is already undergoing expansion and will be able to handle all but a few of the largest ship sizes and should be completed in about a year or so. Most east coast ports aren't dredged deep enough to handle the megaships anyway,and by the time they are, its likely the northern passages around Canada are expected to be open due to global warming. The biggest ships are only deployed on asia-europe routes not because of accessibility but because of demand. It also isn't much further of a trip from Asia to NJ via the Suez Canal rather than the Panama canal.

Re:think big, plan for future (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47624233)

Due the fact that the panama canal is now too small for modern tankers, something like this needs to be done.

There is little need for super-tankers to transit the canal. The price of oil is about the same on either coast, and oil production in Alaska and California pretty well balance out the demand.

Re:think big, plan for future (4, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 months ago | (#47624345)

Obviously the Chinese think differently. Tankers from Nigera to China have to go the other way, or down past the cape.

The Panama Canal was built to get US goods from the east coast to the west coast. The new canal is to connect China with Europe/Africa. They have different goals.

Re:think big, plan for future (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624403)

.. it's in our best interest! Monroe Doctrine!

We should bring that back and put it on steroids. Fuck the Middle East; it's full of parasitical countries. Europe needs to grow a pair and deal with the Russians themselves. China, Japan, and Korea can fuck with each other all they want. As for the US, we should annex all of Central and South America and go Roman on their asses (the smart countries become our client states, the stupid ones get annihilated). Obviously, everyone in those countries wants to be Americans anyway; otherwise, they wouldn't be flooding the border.

Re:think big, plan for future (1)

rwise2112 (648849) | about 2 months ago | (#47624715)

Due the fact that the panama canal is now too small for modern tankers, something like this needs to be done. If only the US would step up and do things like this.. it's in our best interest! Monroe Doctrine!

The Panamanians are well underway to expanding and widening [wikipedia.org] the current canal.

Re:think big, plan for future (2)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 2 months ago | (#47624351)

The US does not put lots of money into backwards countries. That is a misconception based on failing to look at percentages. Less than 1%. $37 Billion - including aid to foreign militaries

For comparison, the total estimate cost for this Nicaraguan Canal is about $49 Billion.

In other words, this one single Chinese project is MORE than all the money the US spent for the entire world last year.

Also note, this canal is not technically a private commercial Chinese project, not a government one. A proper comparison would look at how much US companies invest in foreign countries, and I assure you it is a lot more than $50 Billion.

Re:think big, plan for future (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624465)

The US does not put lots of money into backwards countries.

Sure they do. It's just that the money the US puts in backwards countries tends to be of the exploding variety.

Re:think big, plan for future (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 months ago | (#47624759)

Also note, this canal is not technically a private commercial Chinese project, not a government one. A proper comparison would look at how much US companies invest in foreign countries, and I assure you it is a lot more than $50 Billion.

At this level, the distinction between 'corporate' and 'government' is pretty blurry. Yes, Exxon spends the money. But Exxon 'saves' that money in tax breaks and other incentives given to it by the government. In China, the situation is a bit different, typically running the money through various banks, but the end result is the same.

That said, China spends at least as much money in foreign countries for development as does the US.

look out, Monroe doctrine x 100! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 2 months ago | (#47624595)

US : 1900's Caribbean :: China : 2000's Pacific.
The United Fruit company didn't fuck around.

The Fruits of The Vine (1, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 months ago | (#47623873)

Capitalism and free trade, right guys?

Suck it up!

Re:The Fruits of The Vine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624523)

Personally, I don't see why the US cares about this. A few (don't know how many) years ago, control of the Panama canal reverted back to Panama. The US doesn't make money off of it any more, other than by getting cheap goods.

The only people this hurts are the Panamanians and the people that it helps are the people of Nicaragua and the people who want to ship freight. And potentially, it might help the US if lower prices for China's shipping equates to lower prices of their products. It doesn't hurt the US at all, so I don't know why this story is always played up as an anti-American gesture.

Re:The Fruits of The Vine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624815)

Because its favorable to be anti american, if you appear to be against the evil empire you look less like the bad guy.

 

Famously Anti-American (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47623891)

He's not anti-American, he's pro what-America-could-be!

Re:Famously Anti-American (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624087)

It's probably accurate to say Ortega will always be distrustful of the US government, but it's wrong to say he's anti-American given Nicaragua's push in the last several years to rival CostaRica as the go-to Central American tourism spot.

Interesting (5, Interesting)

ErichTheRed (39327) | about 2 months ago | (#47623893)

When the original Panama Canal was built, there were huge engineering problems that couldn't be easily solved. What will be interesting to see is how quickly this one will be completed with modern technology, modern medicine against tropical diseases, etc. I thought there were plans to widen the existing Panama Canal - were those scrapped?

The other interesting thing to see is China making these huge investments in other countries. Having a competitor for the Panama Canal would really change international trade. I also heard China is investing heavily in Africa and the Middle East, basically for leverage against the US and Europe. It may be one telecom billionaire making the investment, but I'm sure the Chinese government is going to do anything it can to help.

One of the things most people see as a bug but I see as a feature with China is their ability to just do things. There's no debate, no fighting with Congress, etc...they can just tell millions of people to move out of the way of an infrastructure project (e.g. Three Gorges Dam.) That's going to be a huge advantage they have over the West during this century. Another big shift that China is basically just making happen by fiat is the forced urbanization of the country...moving peasant farmers off their land and into cities (which is what those "Ghost Cities" are supposed to be for.) Just look at the fights that happen when someone's land is claimed by eminent domain for a construction project in the US...none of that happens there, and anyone who complains is marginalized.

Re:Interesting (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 2 months ago | (#47624031)

I thought there were plans to widen the existing Panama Canal - were those scrapped?

No, that project is currently under construction and should be completed in 2015.

Incidentally, TFA says this proposed canal would accommodate ships up to 400,000 tons of displacement, while the Wikipedia article for the Panama Canal expansion says the new locks will accommodate ships that are 1400' x 180' x 60', which is about 428,000 tons of displacement (if my math is right). Therefore, this proposed canal won't have an advantage over the Panama Canal in that regard.

Re:Interesting (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 2 months ago | (#47624097)

So, I read more of TFA, and in it the guy behind the proposed canal claims the post-expansion Panama Canal would only be able to handle up to 150,000 tons of displacement. I'm not sure which number is right.

Re:Interesting (1)

Ancil (622971) | about 2 months ago | (#47624641)

Shipping tonnage and water displacement are two very different things. Tonnage refers to cargo, and because it determines a lot of fees and taxes, the industry has been "tinkering" with it for centuries:

Tonnage (ships) [wikipedia.org]

For a good explanation of the Panama's post-expansion capacity, see:

The New Panamax [wikipedia.org]

Re:Interesting (2)

cdrudge (68377) | about 2 months ago | (#47624717)

Panamax is 12.04m draft, 32.31m beam, and 294.13m length for a total volume of 114420 m^3. With a tropical fresh water density of 0.9954 g/cm^3, that comes out to about 113,894 metric tons (125,547 short tons) of displacement.

New Panamax is 15.2m draft, 49m beam, and 366m length for a volume of 272597 m^3 or 271,343 (299,105 short tons) of displacement.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624253)

"Work to expand the Panama Canal will allow much larger ships to navigate the channel. Now, only ships up to 294 meters long and 32.3 meters wide can pass through. Once the construction work is completed, vessels up to 366 meters long and 49 meters wide will be able to use the canal.

However, the Nicaragua canal will be able to accommodate vessels up to 400 meters long and 60 meters wide."

Not counting difference in draft ( they don't say) but Nicaraguan canal could take 30% larger ships.

I'm curious how much of a difference it really makes. Neither article given says much about how much cargo benefits such a transit. I would hope a lot to justify such a canal project. I'll have to pull out some string on a globe to see how distances compare.

Re:Interesting (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 2 months ago | (#47624083)

The Panama Canal expansion project is almost done.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal_expansion_project

Ports on the eastern seaboard are being expanded to handle the "New Panamax" sized ships that will be able to traverse the newly widened canal. I seriously doubt that those ports are going to expand again soon to accommodate the new class of ship for this Nicaragua Canal.

And yes, Authoritarianism does make the trains run on time.

Re:Interesting (1)

Stargoat (658863) | about 2 months ago | (#47624205)

And yes, Authoritarianism does make the trains run on time.

For a little while.

Re:Interesting (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 months ago | (#47624099)

I also heard China is investing heavily in Africa and the Middle East, basically for leverage against the US and Europe.

What do you mean by "leverage"? The reason China is investing heavily in Africa and the Middle East is because there's where there are the most goodies still buried in the ground waiting for the taking.

Re:Interesting (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 months ago | (#47624373)

And Africa is where the next cheap labor is. China is already outsourcing to India, they want to be able to do the same with Africa more easily.

Re:Interesting (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 months ago | (#47624735)

Africa combined is smaller in terms of population then India. And it's incredibly balkanized.

After China and India build a consumer/middle class, the really cheap labor is done. China will lose it's ass in Africa on all ventures other then mining.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624109)

Your memory is very short...Just recently US made "unilateral" decision going to Iraq war. NSA had also made decision to spy on everyone without much debate.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624231)

This is not the first time people have tried to build it there. In fact it was political machinations that moved it to panama it was also a much shorter route. A few years ago the Russians were going to do it. Now they are 'involved' but not doing it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua_Canal

Pretty much all major countries out there have considered it. It has basically been 'approved' since the early 1800's. Can the Chinese pull it off this time?

Basically at this point panama is at capacity. They are considering widening it. However, it has many environmental hurdles to jump to do it. Simple things like recycling of water and the occasional drought. And money issues such as not bankrupting the country of panama to do it as they estimate 30-40k of people working on it for many years.

My guess with the Nicaragua one the Chinese are quietly putting all the debt burden on them and ownership for the Chinese. However, that is pure speculation. Also remember it is not the Chinese gov pushing it but Hong Kong business men. I am sure they want some sort of assurance of exclusive rights http://www.startribune.com/business/211655041.html . I am not sure I would trust the stability of that gov for that. It is a huge gamble. Hope they pull it off.

China is basically just making happen by fiat is the forced urbanization of the country
They can pull that off as they control the countryside. They do not control Nicaragua.

Interesting (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624443)

So you love you some dictatorship. Noted.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624659)

I also heard China is investing heavily in Africa and the Middle East, basically for leverage against the US and Europe.

Not so much leverage but for the resources; oil, coal, lumber, iron, gold and whatever else can be cut down or pumped or dug out of the ground.

China has a massive appetite for raw materials to support its manufacturing industries.

The Chinese ain't so good at minimizing impacts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47623923)

The Chinese record on environmental impact of these sorts of mammoth projects is not so good. Look at the Three Gorges dam or some of their other big projects as an example. And if they're wrong about the impact on Lake Nicaragua they could screw up the water resources of an entire country, to say nothing of other environmental impacts. For what? So they can expedite extracting resources from Africa (and screwing the environment up there as well) to feed their insatiable appetite?

The End is Near... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47623953)

What I think we are seeing is an end to American dominance in markets, military might, and sphere of influence. Full stop.

America's ride on the Roman Empire train is slowing...

Re:The End is Near... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624529)

America's ride on the Roman Empire train is slowing...

So America is like the Roman empire, eh? Then they still got about 1800 years left.

Re:The End is Near... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624625)

I think you're grossly underestimating the military might of the US.

"Nicaragua's famously anti-American president" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624001)

"Nicaragua's famously anti-American president"? Ortega was opposed to the terrorist attacks paid for by the US CIA.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran–Contra_affair

If Nicaragua wants to be to China (1)

wiredog (43288) | about 2 months ago | (#47624007)

what Panama is to the US, then fine, go for it.

"Charlie Don't Surf!" (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 months ago | (#47624023)

. . . or maybe it's "Carlos".

The canal project will bring in more bucks than surfing tourism, so that will pretty much settle it.

Mandatory Sacred Reich reference (1)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | about 2 months ago | (#47624211)

"I know a place
Where you're all going to go
They'll pay you to kill
If You're eighteen years old
First You'll need a haircut
And then some new clothes
They'll stick you in a jungle
To play G.I. Joe

CHORUS:

You fight for democracy
And the "American Way"
But you're not in your country
"What am I doing here?" you say
But now it's too late
You're entering Managua
If you had brought your surfboard
You could surf Nicaragua

Video here [youtube.com]

New Panamax (5, Interesting)

Tailhook (98486) | about 2 months ago | (#47624033)

The current expansion of the Panama canal goes online [marinelog.com] next year. "New Panamax" ships are 13,000 TEU vs 5,000 for current Panamax ships. All the important East coast ports have already been or a currently being dredged out to accommodate these ships. This was accomplished quickly and quietly beginning in 2012 when Obama exempted [redstate.com] the dredging operations from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

Guess they'll be needing another bunch of pencil whipped wavers to dredge out the ports even deeper for the EquadorMax ships, because what China wants China gets.

Might not be as profitable as they think (5, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | about 2 months ago | (#47624123)

The Panama Canal - by virtue of being the only alternative to a trip around the tip of South America - can charge passage fees just less than the cost of a trip around South America. Consequently they make a huge profit margin off of operating it. A quick google search [economist.com] says it brings in about $2 billion/yr, but only costs about $600 million/yr to operate. So they've got a massive 233% profit margin.

Add a second canal, and suddenly they're not competing with a trip around South America. They're competing with each other. Unless they collude together to fix the prices so that they're essentially the same (divide traffic 50/50, which might actually be a good thing since I hear wait times at the Panama Canal can be a week or more), the price is going to drop to slightly higher than what it costs them to operate the more expensive canal. That is the nature of competition. e.g. If the profit margin drops to a still-high 50%, profit from the current level of traffic would be just $300m/yr, and it'll take them 167 years to recoup the $50b construction cost even if they were able to borrow that $50b interest-free. Since the Panama Canal is essentially paid for, the Nicaraguan canal would probably have higher costs and thus slimmer margins, and will likely take centuries to pay for its construction.

A Nicaraguan canal would have the advantage of allowing passage of larger-than-Panamax ships (ships designed so their width barely fits through the Panama Canal). But again, if they try to charge significantly more for such ships, operators will simply continue building Panamax ships. Any surcharge they add on has to be less than the money operators would save by using larger-than-Panamax ships. (Significantly more since such ships would have to be built in the first place.)

It'll be great for the rest of the world - cheaper transport costs, more capacity, faster travel. But could end up tanking both the Nicaraguan and Panamanian economies.

Re:Might not be as profitable as they think (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624729)

I'm not sure how the cost compares to shipping your goods an extra several thousand miles around South America, but one alternative to the Panama canal would be to drop your goods in a Pacific port. Then, move them by truck or train to a Caribbean port, where you have your Atlantic fleet waiting to pick it up. This wasn't a practical option during the steam-engine and sails era, but I imagine a couple of seaports with connecting railways could be made competitive (with sailing around the continent, not passing through a canal).

Re:Might not be as profitable as they think (1)

joss (1346) | about 2 months ago | (#47624747)

> That is the nature of competition.

In a situation with dozen's or hundreds of competitors it is, but without government enforcement cartels develop naturally and quickly (unless one company thinks it can bankrupt the others and become a monopoly). It's far more likely Nicaragua and Panama will come to an agreement.

And then ... (1, Interesting)

xfizik (3491039) | about 2 months ago | (#47624149)

What are the chances that once it's built, the U.S. will find that Nicaragua is not democratic enough to operate it "independently"?

Re:And then ... (1)

camg188 (932324) | about 2 months ago | (#47624399)

I don't think you need to fear that. The US gave control of the Panama canal to Panama back in the 80's. Why would it be different in Nicaragua, particularly if the US didn't build it?

Geography of panama vs nicaragua (3, Informative)

camg188 (932324) | about 2 months ago | (#47624171)

A quick look at google maps and I estimate
Panama is about 40 miles across and about 150 feet (65 k, 40 m) of altitude to overcome.
Nicaragua is about 150 miles and about 650 feet (240 k, 200 m) of altitude to overcome. The altitude difference would add a lot to operating expenses. They'd have to pump a lot of water to locks about 600 feet higher than in Panama.

Re:Geography of panama vs nicaragua (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624293)

They are going through Lake Nicaraugua, which will considerably shorten the length of the canal they need (to about 80 miles).

Re:Geography of panama vs nicaragua (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624507)

So they are going to take a shortcut through one of the largest freshwater lakes in Nicaragua for Ocean traffic. This should end in even more environmental hilarity than the amount of raw sewage they already apparently dump into the lake.

Re:Geography of panama vs nicaragua (1)

rgbscan (321794) | about 2 months ago | (#47624637)

As the lake is above sea level, apparently (IANA Civil Engineer) this will keep the salt out as the lake will just drain to the sea. Apparently. This is what the construction propaganda says anyway.

Re:Geography of panama vs nicaragua (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624749)

With no locks, it means no lake... and the main source of a nation's freshwater is history.

Great benefits for China and anti-US interests, but for the locals who now are going to have to find water elsewhere, as well as the environment (sea snakes, anyone?), it isn't going to be good long term.

Re:Geography of panama vs nicaragua (1)

camg188 (932324) | about 2 months ago | (#47624579)

I think the altitude difference may be a bigger factor than the length of the canal.

Heh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47624413)

... Nicaragua's famously anti-American president...

You think Nicaragua's president is anti-American? Not compared to the current POTUS.

Environmental impact: sea snakes in the Atlantic (4, Informative)

FridayBob (619244) | about 2 months ago | (#47624441)

If the Nicaragua canal does not contain any locks, as does the Panama canal, one particular sea snake species, Pelamis platura [wikipedia.org] , will almost certainly enter the Caribbean, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean where there are currently no sea snakes. So far, Pelamis and other sea snake species have been prevented from entering the Atlantic due to the cold waters in the north and south, the higher salinity of the Red Sea and the system of locks and fresh water of the Panama Canal. If the isthmus of Central America is breached by a lockless canal, I see no reason why P. platura (just this one snake species) and many other unwanted tropical denizens of the Pacific will not make it through to the Caribbean, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, while many from the Caribbean will get through to the Atlantic. In other words, without any locks, this will be a recipe for an environmental disaster. Let's hope I'm wrong and they're planning to build a minimum set of locks anyway.

If they succeed... (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 2 months ago | (#47624495)

They won't make a profit. The best they will end up doing is destroying the economy of Panama. The Panama Canal makes only about $800 million a year. (My source [panama-guide.com]

So if the Nicaraguan Canal costs only $50 billion, (the current estimate is $49 Billion), then assuming terrorists blew up the Panama canal, then maybe Nicaraguan Canal would be $1 billion a year, also know as a 2% return on investment. It would take 50 years just to break even, let alone earn a profit.

Good luck with that business plan.

Good luck

Terrible news for everybody (2)

Ivan Stepaniuk (1569563) | about 2 months ago | (#47624559)

A 10 seconds look at the geographic situation of Nicaragua is enough to realize there is no way to do this withouth destroying thousands of square meters of forest and endangering a freshwater lake that is bigger than Delaware.

Very very old news (4, Informative)

coldsalmon (946941) | about 2 months ago | (#47624577)

Lake Nicaragua was considered for a canal even before Panama. The idea has been picked up and dropped many times since, which is not to say that it won't succeed this time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... [wikipedia.org]

A ugar, a cin, a canal, a naca, Nicaragua. (5, Funny)

coldsalmon (946941) | about 2 months ago | (#47624643)

Doesn't have the same ring to it. I can see why they picked Panama for the first one.

Hurray! USA is going to get another canal cheap! (4, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 months ago | (#47624819)

The Europeans invested so much and spent so much to build the original Panama canal. They went bankrupt and USA picked up the semi finished canal cheaply. At that time that canal was part of Columbia. A group of influential bankers in New York with pulled levers in Washington DC, overseas American Navy etc, intervened in an internal conflict in Columbia and peeled off the zone of the canal from Columbia. They got Washington to recognize Panama with their puppets as the government. The puppets signed a highly lopsided deal favoring the banksters. They pocketed the money and walked off the mess. It took some 18 more years of stand off and then US Taxpayers stepped in and compensated the Columbians for stealing their canal.

So don't worry, our government could be weak and our military power could be misapplied. But we have some really cunning bankers who would steal the loin cloth of Papua New Guineans if they could make a dollar or two. They will steal this spanking new Chinese built canal from Nicaragua for us. Some two decades later we the tax payers will compensate the victims of their greed.

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