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Nicaragua Gives Chinese Firm Contract To Build Alternative To Panama Canal

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the now-there's-a-weekend-project dept.

Transportation 323

McGruber writes with this news from late last week: "The Guardian is reporting that Nicaragua has awarded a Chinese company a 100-year concession to build an alternative to the Panama Canal, in a step that looks set to have profound geopolitical ramifications. The new route will be a higher-capacity alternative to the 99-year-old Panama Canal, which is currently being widened at the cost of $5.2bn. Last year, the Nicaraguan government noted that the new canal should be able to allow passage for mega-container ships with a dead weight of up to 250,000 tonnes. This is more than double the size of the vessels that will be able to pass through the Panama Canal after its expansion, it said."

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323 comments

Competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972371)

So who's going to go ballistic over the loss of a monopoly?

Re:Competition (3, Interesting)

alen (225700) | about 10 months ago | (#43972455)

China is already losing manufacturing jobs

Africa and the middle east is going to be the new frontier for low cost manufacturing

Re:Competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972669)

welcome to corporate rule.

If they can't exploit you then SEE YA! The only people worthy of a good life are Executives.

NEO FEUDALISM.

Re:Competition (1)

telchine (719345) | about 10 months ago | (#43972557)

What's to stop Costa Rica or Columbia joining in?

Re:Competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972923)

Wasn't Panama part of Colombia which became Panama because it was the best part of Colombia to run a canal through?

A man a plan a canal Panama!

Which Columbia? (0)

Arrepiadd (688829) | about 10 months ago | (#43972977)

What's to stop Costa Rica or Columbia joining in?

Money, for starters. You'll want to read back on the fact that this costs billions of dollars to make, which Costa Rica doesn't have.

As for Columbia... you refer to the University in New York or the or the district where Washington is located? Either way none of those is close enough to the Pacific Ocean to be considered for an entry point to a canal.

Re:Which Columbia? (1)

z_gringo (452163) | about 10 months ago | (#43973395)

Surely he meant Columbia, South Carolina as the university in New York wouldn't make sense. And DC would be a horrible place for a canal. Nevertheless, your point is still valid as South Carolina is also long, long, long way from the Pacific ocean.

Re:Competition (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 10 months ago | (#43973379)

Costa Rica owns 1/2 of the San Juan river. Minor technical detail, since navigation on this river has been in dispute for at least 100 years between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Throwing a lucrative Chinese canal into the works will just make things more complicated, since Nicaragua does not have exclusive rights to the river they don't have the authority to make such a deal with China. Unless of course they build it entirely on the Nicaraguan half of the river.

Re:Competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972713)

So who's going to go ballistic over the loss of a monopoly?

Let's wait and see how long it takes them to actually build the damn thing, and at what cost. Go look at a map.

Re:Competition (2)

abarrow (117740) | about 10 months ago | (#43973189)

The Chinese have to build it within 6 years or they lose the concession. The route they are using is the same as the original route that the US was going to use way back when, before the French decided they had lost too many workers to malaria in Panama and the US started funding Panamanian rebels.

Re:Competition (4, Informative)

Stephan Schulz (948) | about 10 months ago | (#43973341)

So who's going to go ballistic over the loss of a monopoly?

Let's wait and see how long it takes them to actually build the damn thing, and at what cost. Go look at a map.

If you take that look, be sure to look closely. The plan is to utilize Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River, which connects it to the Caribbean. That leaves only 10 km of completely new canal (from Lake Nicaragua to the Pacific), although the San Juan River also needs upgrades to make it navigable for larger ships. This is not a new idea, nor an implausible one - see the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org].

Re:Competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43973421)

Actually, there are 6 routes, and the route thru the san jan river (route 6) was rejected as there would be too many complications with Costa Rica. All other 5 routes require lots of dredging and digging.

The new commerce gatekeepers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972381)

Like iOS, they get to set the price to move the goods around.

Re:The new commerce gatekeepers (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#43972521)

Like iOS, they get to set the price to move the goods around.

I'm pretty sure that you can just 'sideload' through the Strait of Magellan if you feel like it.

Re:The new commerce gatekeepers (1)

Arrepiadd (688829) | about 10 months ago | (#43972677)

Like iOS, they get to set the price to move the goods around.

I'm pretty sure that you can just 'sideload' through the Strait of Magellan if you feel like it.

It's not like they're closing the Panama Canal once the Chinese build this. The new canal costs too much, people will just keep going through the old canal (tough luck for those who invested in ships too large to go through the old canal, but doing all those thousands of km through the end of South America isn't less expensive either).

Re:The new commerce gatekeepers (2, Interesting)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 10 months ago | (#43973321)

Like iOS, they get to set the price to move the goods around.

I'm pretty sure that you can just 'sideload' through the Strait of Magellan if you feel like it.

It's not like they're closing the Panama Canal once the Chinese build this. The new canal costs too much, people will just keep going through the old canal (tough luck for those who invested in ships too large to go through the old canal, but doing all those thousands of km through the end of South America isn't less expensive either).

I don't think the significance of this development is so much commercial as it is geo-political. Not that long ago, if the Soviets had done this, it would have caused a major shit-storm. This is a subtle but deliberate and clever provocation on part of the Chinese since they are effectively invading what the USA has regarded as it's 'sphere of influence' for about 200 years without firing carrying a single gun but still doing something of considerable military significance. I'm not sure what the PRC is trying to achieve here but between the recent hacker attacks, this and a whole lot of other pinpricks the PRC is poking a sleeping Grizzly with a stick. I'll actually be surprised if this won't eventually lead to some sort of US counter-provocation. Traditionally this would have taken the form of a couple of US carrier group steaming through the Taiwan Strait with full brouhaha and unofficial orders to Navy pilots to deliberately interpret the limits of PRC airspace rather loosely. This would then have been followed by the US congress approving a massive package of arms sales to Taiwan. Who the hell knows, perhaps approval of F-35 stealth fighter sales to Taiwan has been deliberately kept in reserve for just such an occasion?

Short on details (4, Interesting)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 10 months ago | (#43972411)

The story is short on details, the Spanish language op ed referred to in TFA indicates the canal would run through Lake Nicaragua. This route has been considered since before the US-dug canal through Panama. I could potentially be a sea-level canal, which would be a major plus, but which would radically alter the Lake. Either way, it'd be a big deal for shipping and save thousands of miles and tons of fuel for ships bigger than whatever they're calling the latest "Panamax." It seems to me the ports of New Orleans and Mobile in the US would benefit, perhaps also Atlantic ports in Europe.

Re:Short on details (3, Informative)

ibwolf (126465) | about 10 months ago | (#43972709)

... could potentially be a sea-level canal...

No it couldn't. the surface of Lake Nicaragua [wikipedia.org] is 32.7 meters above sea level. Its maximum depth is 26 meters. If you connect it to the sea without locks, it will empty out entirely.

The only way to make this work is to use locks, same as with the Panama canal.

The advantage here is that you will not need to accommodate any traffic during construction.

Re:Short on details (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972765)

Antartic and Greenland Ice Caps melting will solve that problem...

Re:Short on details (4, Informative)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | about 10 months ago | (#43972753)

which would radically alter the Lake

Indeed since it is a freshwater lake, the ecosystem would undergo quite a change but currently it's being "attacked" by tons of sewage pumped into it each day. Lake Nicaragua [wikipedia.org]

Re:Short on details (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972997)

Ometepe is a beautiful and 'relatively' unspoiled island that sits right next to the proposed shipping lane. I paddled out in a little canoe one day about 5 years ago with some fishing line and bread and caught successively bigger and bigger fish (using the previous fish as bait) until I had a couple 15 inchers that I took to a little local restaurant that cooked them for me, they were great.
It's really a beautiful place full of nice people and I'm pretty worried about the environmental impact.

That being said, man, I love huge engineering projects! Sounds like it is going to go through so I'm just going to go ahead and get excited about seeing how crazy it all looks in a decade or two.

Re:Short on details (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 10 months ago | (#43973459)

The story is short on details, the Spanish language op ed referred to in TFA indicates the canal would run through Lake Nicaragua. This route has been considered since before the US-dug canal through Panama. I could potentially be a sea-level canal, which would be a major plus, but which would radically alter the Lake. Either way, it'd be a big deal for shipping and save thousands of miles and tons of fuel for ships bigger than whatever they're calling the latest "Panamax." It seems to me the ports of New Orleans and Mobile in the US would benefit, perhaps also Atlantic ports in Europe.

Shipping from Asia, to the Southeast US doesn't make a lot of economical sense when you can transfer cargo containers on the West Coast of the US or even Mexico and transfer them by rail. Assuming the transfer operation takes the same time regardless of the port, the rail travel is comparable to sea and more fuel efficient. In addition, since regardless of the port in question (West or East coast), the port is not the final destination and often the goods are transferred by rail or truck a substantial distance. Getting the container off the ship onto rail at the earliest point, allows for the transfer to truck at the most efficient point, too. (ie. why go through the canal to Mobile, to ship the goods back to Topeka?).

One would think that a new canal has more to do with geo-politics than with economics.

I can see where this will go. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972419)

The Chinese should read this book [amazon.com].

It's an eye opener. HINTS: Technology and man power aren't the problems. And dealing with mosquitoes hasn't changed very much in the last century.

Also, for you program managers, it's an AWESOME read and helps when you're crying yourself to sleep from the mean nasty things your developers say about you.

Finally (5, Informative)

wcrowe (94389) | about 10 months ago | (#43972429)

I've been waiting to hear about this for years. It should be quite a project. Wikipedia has a map [wikipedia.org] for those interested.

Re:Finally (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#43972611)

I wonder if they will resurrect the idea of “Pan-Atomic Canal”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua_canal [wikipedia.org]

Basically, you just need a few atomic devices to carve out a new canal. I assume China has a few laying around and that the who thing would only take a few months to construct.

Re:Finally (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 10 months ago | (#43972675)

Wasn't there a nuclear test in 1970 in Alaska that showed such use of nukes to dig holes was not only not as effective as expected but also incredibly fucking stupid?

Re:Finally (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#43972875)

There was a planned test to dig a harbor (which is kind of like a big hole) in Alaska but it never happened. Ergo all objections are theoretical.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Chariot_(1958) [wikipedia.org]

(I might have to take that back. I think the USSR did something similar. Made a really pretty lake, if I recall, but they could never keep it stocked with fish. But I can’t find a link so it might be my imagination.)

Re:Finally (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 10 months ago | (#43973027)

Wikipedia has a list of the tests - the year you are looking for is 1970 - location, Alaska (both as mentioned above). It didn't move much dirt.
It appears I should not have posed it as a rhetorical question since that appears to be too subtle for readers here, which is fair enough reading it casually late at night or something.

Re:Finally (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 10 months ago | (#43973115)

No. It would have happened in the early 1960s, but was canceled over strong local opposition and no real economic need for a port at Cape Thompson.

Re:Finally (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 10 months ago | (#43973117)

NO.

That was a stupid idea of Dr. Edward Teller and others. This paper is a fascinating look at how stupid of a plan it was and although they didn't do full scale nuclear testing, they did import fallout into Alaska from Nevada. [uconn.edu]

Edward Teller toured the territory of Alaska in the summer of 1958 to promote his dream of "engaging in the great art of geographic engineering, to reshape the earth to your pleasure." He told the curious Alaskans that they were "the most reasonable people," that the atomic scientists had "looked at the whole world" for just the right location to test their technology. He flattered them, saying that "Anything new that is big needs big people in order to get going..., and big people are found in big states ." He boasted that the Atomic Energy Commission (the predecessor to the Energy Research and Development Administration, and now the Department of Energy) could "dig a harbor in the shape of a polar bear, if required." He further boasted that "If your mountain is not in the right place, just drop us a card." (Coates, 1989).

It's no small wonder that Kubrik patterned Dr. Strangelove after Teller. One quote sums it up by Isador Rabi [aps.org]about Teller as well:

"He is a danger to all that is important. I do think it would have been a better world without Teller. I think he is an enemy of humanity."

We did have the Sedan shot which was part of Plowshare but it made a nice big hole in Nevada.

The Soviets with their Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (PNE) did do geoscaping with nukes. [wikipedia.org] They did create a lake but it's still radioactive like most sites.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972777)

I've been waiting to hear about this for years. It should be quite a project. Wikipedia has a map [wikipedia.org] for those interested.

Thanks but the satellite view on Google gives you a much better idea of exactly how big of a project this will be. I predict it takes at least twice as long to build as they plan, and the budget over-runs will be at least four times the initial estimate. Once it finally opens, there will be problems which prevent the largest of the vessels from using it until they perform a costly and time-consuming retrofit. In the end, it'll be cheaper to take the long way around or ship over land via truck or rail than to pay the duty fees to use the canal.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43973257)

This isn't a new UK-government IT project...

it's too wide (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#43972453)

Look at a map of Nicaragua. It's at least twice if not 3x as wide as Panama at its thinnest point. What an unbelievably stupid idea, not to mention how stupid it is to completely cut your country in half.

Re:it's too wide (4, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 10 months ago | (#43972517)

It's a shame China didn't consult with you first then. You could have saved them a lot of trouble by telling them it was stupid. So in order to allow super tankers, which are too big for the Panama Canal, where would have built an additional, wider canal?

Re:it's too wide (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#43972649)

Obviously trolling but gee, hmm, maybe PANAMA?! You know, make it even wider. I don't suppose you considered that.

Re:it's too wide (2)

cdrudge (68377) | about 10 months ago | (#43972835)

I'm sure that Panama didn't consider that either when they started their current project to widen the existing Panama canal.

Re:it's too wide (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 10 months ago | (#43972959)

Who's trolling whom here? Or are you suggesting that China didn't consider the obvious? Or that Panama didn't consider it when they undertook that very project?Maybe, just maybe, the people involved in these projects know something you don't. I don't suppose you considered that.

Re:it's too wide (4, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 10 months ago | (#43972545)

not to mention how stupid it is to completely cut your country in half.

Yeah, that MIssisippi river forces people to ride thousands of miles further to take their horses from Mississippi to Texas. Oh wait, they've been building bridges and fording rivers since before the colonial era?

Sure, it is a longer route than Panama, but I suspect the shipping volumes are large enough that it might be profitable. China is likely viewing this strategically - they've been taking the long view far more than the US in recent years, with the exceptions of their environmental policy and the US willingness to invest in blowing things up.

Re:it's too wide (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 10 months ago | (#43973235)

China manages its people like property, like a herd, thats why they take the long view. The US, in theory, is just a group of people who choose to live together.

Re:it's too wide (4, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 10 months ago | (#43972551)

Look at a map of Nicaragua. It's at least twice if not 3x as wide as Panama at its thinnest point. What an unbelievably stupid idea, not to mention how stupid it is to completely cut your country in half.

In the US, our country is "completely cut in half" by a naturally occurring canal, if you will. We've used a technologies known as the "bridge" and "ferry" to deal with that. Nicaragua could probably do the same.

Also note that part of that distance through Nicaragua is already water: Lake Nicaragua. Every plan ever for a canal through that region -- going back to the 19th century -- has included the lake in the route.

Re:it's too wide (2, Insightful)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#43972671)

I didn't know Chinese super tankers came down the Mississippi River daily, thus making it ungodly expensive to create bridges high enough to let them pass under and effectively turning the average distance between bridges to 10x what it would be if only smaller boats passed down it. That never came up in Huck Finn apparently.

Re:it's too wide (3, Interesting)

cdrudge (68377) | about 10 months ago | (#43972885)

Nicaragua apparently doesn't even have a paved road that stretches from one coast to the other. I'm not sure how much of an issue it would be to build a $40b canal that has a few tall bridges, or those new fangled draw bridges every so often to handle what must be a huge amount of traffic in the area.

Re:it's too wide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43973373)

Nicaragua apparently doesn't even have a paved road that stretches from one coast to the other. I'm not sure how much of an issue it would be to build a $40b canal that has a few tall bridges, or those new fangled draw bridges every so often to handle what must be a huge amount of traffic in the area.

China has been investing in such projects for years. They do that to be independent of US policy (export regulation, geopolitics and whatnot)
They have been building new roads, gas pipelines, sea ports all over the world, even in politically unstable countries like pakistan, iraq ... These are future investments, just like china's own ghost cities.

If you know that every ship passing trough the Panama Canal pays between 50 000 - 250 000$ in each direction that 40 billion means nothing.

Re:it's too wide (1)

Shatrat (855151) | about 10 months ago | (#43973313)

Most of the area this canal would be built through is jungle with no roads anyway, there would only be a need for a few bridges on the east coast and a few bridges on the west coast.

Re:it's too wide (3, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | about 10 months ago | (#43972575)

You know, it's a hell of a lot easier to carve a relatively flat channel over a long distance than it is to build lock after lock and to maintain all those pumps...

And as for cutting one's country in half, that's what bridges and tunnels are for.

I don't think that the Chinese will succeed for the same reasons why the French and other European nations didn't succeed initially in Panama. The Panama canal took a national interest to construct, not a corporate interest, and was driven in large part by our nation having two coasts with a whole lot of distance in between, and by our "Manifest Destiny" doctrine. Simple economic interests operated by a corporation may not be able to pull it off, especially if that corporation is there only for that purpose, as problems along the way will make it very hard to raise capital when investors don't think that their investment will pay off.

If they do manage to pull it off, great! There will be uses for the Panama Canal even if it receives less traffic than the new one, decades from now when it's finished.

Re:it's too wide (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#43972685)

Have you seen the height of the average super tanker and the Nicaraguan budget for infrastructure improvements like bridges?

Re:it's too wide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972955)

No, and neither have you seen the Nicaraguan budget for infrastructure improvements like bridges.

Re:it's too wide (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 10 months ago | (#43972783)

What pumps [staticflickr.com]? I believe the locks are gravity fed..

Re:it's too wide (3, Informative)

WuphonsReach (684551) | about 10 months ago | (#43973273)

Newer lock systems that are designed to reuse water are going to need pumps to move water in/out of the storage basins. Without the water re-use, the Panama canal would not have enough annual rainfall to move those post-Panamax ships. With the water re-use concept, moving a post-Panamax ship through the locks takes about the same amount of water as the current locks do with Panamax ships.

Re:it's too wide (2, Informative)

dpilot (134227) | about 10 months ago | (#43973147)

Multiple comments...

As fustakrakich says, no pumps needed. Need more water in the lock, get it from the higher water level side. Need less, give it to the lower water level side. As a kid, we went to a fishing camp along the Trent Waterway system in Ontario, Ca. I've had the now-rare experience of walking in circles, pushing the handles that operated the valves and doors of the locks. At that time it was fully manual, these days it's all electric. As for technology, I've also been on and to the Peterborough lift-locks, where the boats ride in pans on hydraulic rams. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterborough_Lift_Lock [wikipedia.org] But the thing I hope to see someday is the Falkirk Wheel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkirk_Wheel [wikipedia.org]

Yes, I'm a bit of a lock-junkie.

As for "succeed", China is embarking on a massive "manifest destiny" kick of their own, right now. I'll be curious to see what "Internet Time" does to that, as well as their changing demographics and internal tendency to corruption. It will be interesting to see how well they can keep their long-term focus with those other factors at work. (I'll agree that without them, China has been pretty good at long-term.)

Re:it's too wide (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 10 months ago | (#43973513)

your post is absolutely correct but misses one point. China _is_ currently in the midst of its Manifest Destiny (empire expansion) period

Re:it's too wide (2)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 10 months ago | (#43972939)

Look at a map of Nicaragua.

You first, since it's clear you didn't actually look at a detailed map.

If you look at an actual map of Nicaragua, what you will see is that there is a gigantic body of water called Lake Nicaragua that covers about half the width of the country. Look a little harder and you'll see a series of major rivers connecting Lake Nicaragua (which sits mostly on the western part of the country) with the Caribbean Sea to the east. As a result, any of the canals that have ever been proposed in Nicaragua make use of the existing rivers and the lake for the majority of the trip, meaning that the only place they need to build an artificial canal would be for the 10km-ish stretch between the western edge of Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean. They also have to add locks and likely do some dredging with one of the current rivers, but that's far less costly than having to do it all from scratch.

Also, the US has really suffered all of these years due to its being cut in half by the Mississippi, so I can see why you're concerned about what this might do to Nicaragua. It's a good thing those rivers and the lake I just mentioned don't already span the width of the country. I'm sure that turning them into a canal system would really harm the country.

Re:it's too wide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43973231)

Try again with a relief map

Why waist the money? (1)

Shortguy881 (2883333) | about 10 months ago | (#43972483)

Look at a map at Panama and Nicaragua. If its going to take 5.2 billion to widen the Panama canal, how much will it cost to build a new one across a country more than twice the width of Panama? More than $40 billion I think.

Also the article says the aim is to "weaken US dominance over the key shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans." The Panama canal is owned by Panama. Has been since 1999.

Re:Why waist the money? (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 10 months ago | (#43972601)

I have not even RTFA yet, but I believe I've put more thought into this issue than you have. I've been to Panama and watched the canal operate, and I have some thoughts on this issue which have persisted since. First, the Panama canal is driven by fresh water which is then thrown away. The redesign reuses a portion of the water (a third, I think) so that they can make more runs per day, not so that they can save any water. There are literally people dying on this planet for lack of fresh water and this is just used as hydraulic fluid and then thrown into the ocean while ships pass by. Everything is wrong with this.

If its going to take 5.2 billion to widen the Panama canal, how much will it cost to build a new one across a country more than twice the width of Panama? More than $40 billion I think.

It's cheaper to dig a canal than to widen one, because you're going to be digging through a bunch of dry land with no special engineering issues. Then you knock the ends out. It's cheaper still if they import a bunch of Chinese slave labor.

Also the article says the aim is to "weaken US dominance over the key shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans." The Panama canal is owned by Panama. Has been since 1999.

And Panama is 0wned by the USA. Has been since 1989.

Re:Why waist the money? (1)

Wookie Monster (605020) | about 10 months ago | (#43972745)

There are literally people dying on this planet for lack of fresh water and this is just used as hydraulic fluid and then thrown into the ocean while ships pass by. Everything is wrong with this.

Have you ever considered the cost involved transporting fresh water to those who need it?

It's cheaper to dig a canal than to widen one, because you're going to be digging through a bunch of dry land with no special engineering issues. Then you knock the ends out. It's cheaper still if they import a bunch of Chinese slave labor.

Even cheaper when you use local Nicaraguan slave labor.

Re:Why waist the money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972747)

The problem isn't a lack of freshwater on the planet, it is that people are where freshwater isn't. Not one person would have any more water to drink if we stopped using fresh water to fill the locks in the Panama Canal.

Water (1)

dlenmn (145080) | about 10 months ago | (#43972801)

There are literally people dying on this planet for lack of fresh water and this is just used as hydraulic fluid and then thrown into the ocean while ships pass by. Everything is wrong with this.

Are there people dying in Panama for lack of water? Are you proposing to transport water from Panama to the Sudan? Sounds like an amazingly good idea since it's super efficient to transport water large distances... Also, news flash, this new canal will be using fresh water -- from Lake Nicaragua -- in the same way as the Panama canal!

Re:Water (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 10 months ago | (#43973031)

Are there people dying in Panama for lack of water?

If not, there will be soon. Clean water is a major problem even in parts of Panama.

Are you proposing to transport water from Panama to the Sudan?

It's a major shipping hub and the water goes through ports from which it could feasibly be collected. At least a portion of it could go somewhere.

Re:Why waist the money? (1)

excursive (2823185) | about 10 months ago | (#43972879)

First, the Panama canal is driven by fresh water which is then thrown away. The redesign reuses a portion of the water (a third, I think) so that they can make more runs per day, not so that they can save any water. There are literally people dying on this planet for lack of fresh water and this is just used as hydraulic fluid and then thrown into the ocean while ships pass by.

Water in Panama does no good to people dying of thirst in Africa. Even more fresh water is wasted by letting the Amazon flow into the Atlantic Ocean. What should we do about that?

Re:Why waist the money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43973095)

The water saving basins for the 3rd Set of Locks will reuse more than 60% of the fresh water it takes in from Gatun Lake. I don't believe the point is to save time emptying and filling since it is driven by gravity. If you think Panama is 'wasting' the water you clearly haven't been here in the rainy season. The Canal, and Panama City, sits in a tropical rainforest. Any water issues here arise from potability, not quantity, and that is driven by infrastructure.

If the topography of Nicaragua allows for a sea-level canal, they may be in luck, but the time table is totally off. 10 years is laughable. The 5.2 bn. for the expansion in Panama is a low ball figure also, check out the tender results.

FWIW I'm sitting in an office at the expansion project right now. I'm not an engineer or designer, so I can't get into those aspects.

Re:Why waist the money? (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 10 months ago | (#43973549)

And Panama is 0wned by the USA. Has been since 1989.

Uhhhhh, arresting Noriega in his own country merely made the 0wning obvious. The US has 0wned Panama since we built the canal.

Re:Why waist the money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972725)

They have been talking about this canal for over 150 years at this point.

Nicaragua has been shopping this behemoth around for a long time. Will the Chinese build it? Maybe. Of course the Russians 5 years ago said they would do it...

They can say they will do it. Then once they start drawing up plans find out they need way more money they will back out...

Panama was only finished because of 3 previous failed efforts had already bore most of the cost.

Re:Why waist the money? (1)

Politburo (640618) | about 10 months ago | (#43973345)

The previous efforts were about ~20% of the total project (in terms of earth moved), but ~45% of the total money spent. Both cases represent an usual definition of "most".

Need to think in more than 2D (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 10 months ago | (#43972731)

Your direct comparison doesn't make sense because the terrain is different.

Also the article says the aim is to "weaken US dominance over the key shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans." The Panama canal is owned by Panama. Has been since 1999.

Just like GITMO is owned by Cuba?

Re:Why waist the money? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#43972881)

And then the fee to go through it goes down because a lot of medium to small boats now have 2 options

Good luck with that (5, Funny)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 10 months ago | (#43972559)

If it only takes them a hundred years and a trillion dollars it'll be a miracle. And here's a tip: bring in the French first. After they fail everyone will want to help you out because apparently nothing's more satisfying than beating the French at something.

Re:Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972819)

First thing I thought of was the Battle of France. What's German for "Well that wasn't very satisfying"?

100 years for china... (1)

voss (52565) | about 10 months ago | (#43972825)

Isnt that much...we spent a trillion dollars on the war in iraq we spent another trillion on stimulus. Imagine if we had spent a trillion rebuilding all our roads, rails, schools, hospitals and ports. Efficiency in infrastructure adds to long term economic growth which increases tax revenue.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 10 months ago | (#43973167)

That and creating nations to allow you to build your canal. First you find a bunch of mal-contents, arm them and then when they revolt you recognize their little area as an independent nation. They then sign a treaty giving you perpetual control and you can start digging. [millercenter.org]

In 1901, the United States negotiated with Britain for the support of an American-controlled canal that would be constructed either in Nicaragua or through a strip of land—Panama—owned by Colombia. In a flourish of closed-door maneuvers, the Senate approved a route through Panama, contingent upon Colombian approval. When Colombia balked at the terms of the agreement, the United States supported a Panamanian revolution with money and a naval blockade, the latter of which prevented Colombian troops from landing in Panama. In 1903, the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty with Panama gave the United States perpetual control of the canal for a price of $10 million and an annual payment of $250,000.

Ancient Chinese wisdom (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 10 months ago | (#43972593)

Guess we'll get to see how far that ancient Chinese wisdom gets them...

Still, if they want to waste that money and manpower, let them. A dollar wasted on this boondoggle is a dollar not spent on their military.

Re:Ancient Chinese wisdom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972911)

I guess they see some long term profits too, they're not just building for the heck of it you know.

Out of curiosity... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#43972599)

Apparently, there is a sea-level discrepancy of ~20cm between the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Panama Canal. That's largely irrelevant; because it isn't a sea-level canal.

If one were to build a sea-level canal across the area(or nearby), what would the effect be? Some initial flow quickly reaching equilibrium? A more-or-less-permanent(for human purposes, let's say a few centuries at least) flow? Would the erosive effects be substantial enough that part of the canal could dig itself, if an initial cut was made to allow the flow to start?

Re:Out of curiosity... (2)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 10 months ago | (#43972707)

20cm over hundreds of miles is not significant. You'd have more run down from surrounding hills adding to the water level than the inflow of one of the oceans. In essence, you'd have a river that would flow both ways. You probably still want locks though, if only to make sure that you don't have to dig your canal incredibly deep. It may be feasible to build the channel (mostly) at sea level, but there may still be some areas where placing a lock would save you so much money in digging that you can't ever get that back in fares.

Re:Out of curiosity... (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 10 months ago | (#43973565)

You'd have a current fighting tides. Probably end up with square waves like in British Columbia Canada west coast.

but but but.... (2)

trum4n (982031) | about 10 months ago | (#43972629)

So, a truly massive freshwater lake is about to be flooded with salt water. What about all the fish/creatures/plants that live there?

Re:but but but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43972737)

What about all the fish/creatures/plants that live there?

Why do you think that they're contracting the Chinese? Fuck the fish/creatures/plants/people that get in the way.

Re:but but but.... (1)

trum4n (982031) | about 10 months ago | (#43972937)

I guess the workers will cook and eat the fish that float to the surface of the 40x90 -mile- lake? Seems slightly wasteful.

Re:but but but.... (4, Interesting)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 10 months ago | (#43973359)

Since the lake is more than 100 feet above today's sea level, if it ever floods with salt water, there are not going to be many people left to worry about its ecology.

Now hitchhiker organisms riding on the bottoms of the ships or in their ballast tanks are a reasonable concern. We can assume that inspection and cleaning facilities will be set up on both sides of the Nicaragua canal, since this kind of contamination is a well known problem. I expect that the Panama Canal has been retrofitted by now-- although maybe it is being treated as a lost cause.

Re:but but but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43973405)

...they will be provided with a nice relaxing salt bath, at no extra cost.

Really, who the hell cares what the fish think? We used to be all green and environmental in the 1960s and 1970s, and then we were cheated and defrauded of billions of our money by the great climate change scam.

It's payback time, and those fish in Lake Nicaragua are going to get it first...

buyer beware (1, Interesting)

nimbius (983462) | about 10 months ago | (#43972653)

considering america had to basically create panama by blocking columbian troop movement with warships, and bribe its existing stationed troops already in place to lay down arms, id say china should reconsider the proposition being made. the US also had to support a pretty brutal dictator (Noriega) who routinely tortured and murdered his people, as well as fight a brief war to prevent a communist nationalization of the resource. For a country that prides itself on peaceful expansion and nonaggression [wikipedia.org] it may just as well be cheaper to buy the existing canal outright and retrofit it.

Costa Rica (5, Funny)

edxwelch (600979) | about 10 months ago | (#43972659)

You realise if the pull this off technically Costa Rica will become an island.

Re:Costa Rica (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43973045)

Politically and socially, it already is.

This could be good news (4, Interesting)

voss (52565) | about 10 months ago | (#43972719)

A china that is committed to trading with the world is not waging war. This is about shipping routes from China to Europe bypassing unstable africa and an even more unstable middle east. Its also about ships such as the maersk Triple E class 165,000 tons which is too big for any US port to handle but can be easily handled by ports in china and europe. This would shock americans but the Chinese of 700 years had ships bigger than any in Europe that could travel farther and were more advanced with magnetic compasses and watertight compartments.

And this is the thanks we get in the U.S. (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 10 months ago | (#43972741)

We go to all that trouble to attempt an overthrow of the Nicaraguan government all through the 80's, and THIS is how they say thanks!

Do you have any idea how much money we spent sending your people to college [wikipedia.org], you ungrateful bastards?

China needs busywork (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 10 months ago | (#43972889)

When you have 100s of millions of unemployed single males, you have a problem. They need busy work. It would be best for them if they shipped them all over with shovels and hand-dug the canal. They also need more countries enslaved to their cheap products in order to keep their factories going, again, because if you have 100s of millions of unemployed single males, you have a problem.

CHINA NEEDS WOMEN (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 10 months ago | (#43973485)

100s of millions of unemployed single males...you have a problem

Uhhhh, JERBS are the least of their problems.
Unless they're going to work them 24/7, they need 100s of millions of wimmins . And these idiots keep aborting females. Unless China has the plans for the gay bomb. It's going to take a world war the likes we haven't seen to burn off that many unattached bachelors. Sexbots and VR porn only fulfill the basest needs and will only serve as a stopgap. (but what a market opportunity!!!)

One volcano can spoil your whole weekend (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 10 months ago | (#43973009)

Aside from it being a longer route, I thought one of the reasons they decided not to dig there was volcanism.

Infrastructure (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 10 months ago | (#43973451)

One challenge is the existing infrastructure. Would ports spend the money to handle mega-Panamax ships and can the rail infrastructure handle the increased freight. The ability to move freight beyond the port can be a big bottleneck.

Learn, dammit. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 10 months ago | (#43973567)

"the new canal should be able to allow passage for mega-container ships with a dead weight of up to 250,000 tonnes. This is more than double the size of the vessels that will be able to pass through the Panama Canal after its expansion,"

Meanwhile, factions in the US fight tooth and nail against deepening harbors by 5 feet (fights that have, so far, taken longer than the original Panama Canal to build), using regulatory blocks.

That's just to handle the new Panama size. These new super-supercargo ships, forget it.

Whether a nation is crushed under the weight of corruption and kickbacks (you must pay to get anything done) or well-meaning regulation (you must pay to get anything done) the result is the same. We are closer to Mexico with kickbacks than China, with a freer economy.

There's a lot more to freedom than just speech. Maybe the next empire will learn this. The US didn't, just like Europe before it.

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