After a meeting with the American-Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce (Amcham), U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for the Western Hemisphere Walter Bastian confessed to being “fascinated by the subject of an inter-ocean canal in Nicaragua.
After the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry had said the proposed project was dead, a feasibility study is still in its preliminary stages. The canal would use the San Juan River that forms the border with Costa Rica as its waterway.
Bastian said he would talk with U.S. businessmen about the proposed canal. That ambitious Nicaraguan project would include a railroad line, an oil pipeline, two deep-water ports, two airfields and free trade zones beside passage for cargo ships larger than now can be accommodated by the Panama Canal at a cost of $40 billion.
Amcham president Diego Vargas told La Nacion, “Today 70% of the ocean traffic that goes through the Panama Canal moves from the east coast to the west coast of the United States. We’ve had communication with businessmen who are preparing (for use of the projected canal).”
Bastian cautioned that “it’s a very long range project with many decisions to take” the route, the ecologicial impact, I think for us, as with North American businesses, interest will be dominated by the subject of transparency, the contracts to be let but it’s an extremely interesting project.”
Costa Rican foreign policy opposes the construction of the canal on environmental grounds. Some companies have backed away from considering the construction because of this opposition.
The hitherto unknown Chinese company, HK Nicaraga Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd. (HKND Group) has been granted a sweeping concession for the design, development, engineering, financial agreements construction, property possession, operation and maintenance of the canal.
The political opposition in the deeply polarized Nicaragua charges that the company has no track record in construction. HK Group has promised that their feasibility study is being conducted by “international experts.”