Industry working to get a slice of the Nicaragua Canal

The first companies have already positioned themselves to secure a piece of the business if the ambitious plans to construct a canal for ship traffic through Nicaragua are realized. One of these is DHI, which served as consultant to the competitor in Panama.

If there is anything that can warm the pockets of Danish DHI, it is the launch of giant construction projects around the world that are somehow related to water.

DHI was pulled on board as consultant when the Panama Canal decided to expand the water locks and canal, a project that is expected to be ready in early 2016. And when the six countries surrounding  the Nile needed an evaluation of the water flow rate at the dams encircling the important waterway, DHI was also the one who got the job.

As such, DHI - along with Niras A/S - has already been in Nicaragua to evaluate the project, which is still only at the drawing board stage, though several major Western companies, the biggest in their individual fields, are currently completing feasibility studies on the project. These studies are expected ready for presentation within the next few weeks.

Several challenges for the canal

"The project is doable, it's just a matter of financing. Beyond this, it's important to choose the right solutions before starting the project," Andreas Brogaard Buhl, Head of Environment at DHI, tells ShippingWatch.

Maersk Line supports the Nicaragua Canal

He points out that the canal, which if realized would be three times the length of the Panama Canal, faces a series of technical and environmental challenges.

"We're looking forward to seeing the feasibility studies that will be presented before long. One of the things we can bid on is, for instance, the construction of the two ports at either end of the canal. They will have to be designed in a sensible manner, for example to keep them from sanding up. You need to have sufficient water passing through locks in order to get the ships through, while also keeping in mind the water flow of the natural outlet (Rio San Juan, which is shared with Costa Rica) as well as the surrounding country and agriculture that depend on the water," says Andreas Brogaard Buhl.

Rare shark in the lake

Wildlife and fish stocks in the massive lake, Lago de Nicaragua, will also need to be protected. For instance, a rare shark species lives in the big lake that forms part of the canal project, which means that ships will have to pass through the lake. Several paths are still in play, and Andreas Brogaard Buhl expects that they will feature in the environmental part of the studies, estimated to be ready for presentation on July 1st.

He also confirms - as recently reported by ShippingWatch - that the lack of water in Panama is the real reason that the expansion currently in process does not account for the biggest ships, such as Maersk Line's Triple-E series. If DHI manages to secure an order - if and when the project is launched - it will likely happen in collaboration with other Danish consulting firms, while also resulting in a new office in the South and Central American region, where the company is currently only represented in Brazil.

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