Proposed Nicaragua Channel to Link Oceans

A waterway to connect the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean via Nicaragua was proposed as far back as the early 19th century, with Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte reportedly writing an article about the feasibility of carrying out such a project. The proposed route would have used the San Juan River to travel up to Lake Nicaragua, with a man-made canal linking the lake to the Pacific Ocean. The United States later made plans to build the canal to facilitate transport between the east and west coasts of North America, but upon buying rights to use the Panama Canal from the French in the early 20th century, the US abandoned its Nicaraguan project.

In recent years the increase in shipping traffic passing through the Panama Canal has led authorities to reconsider an inter-oceanic canal through Nicaragua. Recent reports note that the Panama Canal is battling to cope with the continual increase in shipping, as well as the increase in the size of the ships needing to use it. The recent toll increases by the Panama Canal Authority, which are being opposed by the International Chamber of Shipping, may prompt shipping companies to look for competitive pricing and a break from the monopoly which now exists on inter-ocean traffic.

It appears that the most favored route is still up the San Juan River for a distance of 119 miles, crossing Lake Nicaragua, and travelling along a 12 mile canal across the isthmus of Rivas to the Pacific Ocean. There are four alternative routes being considered, all of which enter Lake Nicaragua and require a canal through Rivas. A new commission – the Grand Interoceanic Canal Authority of Nicaragua – has been formed to consider all possibilities. The plan is supported by Russia and China, BRICS countries which will benefit significantly from a water transport route through Nicaragua. The United States will also benefit from the canal opening up an alternative route between the east and west coasts of the country, as well as to the Asia Pacific.

While the economic powerhouses of the world, particularly Russia and China, are keen to benefit from a Nicaraguan canal, the project’s success will surely benefit Nicaragua economically. There are also a number of ecological concerns to consider. With the project still in the planning stages, it remains to be seen where it will go from here.