Ecocanal

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The Nicaraguan Ecocanal is a proposed project in Nicaragua to build a shallow-draft waterway connecting the inland Lake Nicaragua with the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River in the south of the country. [1] [2] The main aim of the waterway is to provide a maritime alternative to the lengthy overland journeys that are presently required to import and export containerised cargoes through the ports of Puerto Cortes in Honduras and Puerto Limon in Costa Rica.

Nicaragua Country in Central America

Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua, is the largest country in the Central American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the northwest, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. Managua is the country's capital and largest city and is also the third-largest city in Central America, behind Tegucigalpa and Guatemala City. The multi-ethnic population of six million includes people of indigenous, European, African, and Asian heritage. The main language is Spanish. Indigenous tribes on the Mosquito Coast speak their own languages and English.

Draft (hull) the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull (keel)

The draft or draught of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull (keel), with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draft outline would be obtained. Draft determines the minimum depth of water a ship or boat can safely navigate. The draft can also be used to determine the weight of the cargo on board by calculating the total displacement of water and then using Archimedes' principle. A table made by the shipyard shows the water displacement for each draft. The density of the water and the content of the ship's bunkers has to be taken into account. The closely related term "trim" is defined as the difference between the forward and aft drafts.

Lake Nicaragua largest lake in Central America

Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca or Granada is a freshwater lake in Nicaragua. Of tectonic origin and with an area of 8,264 km2 (3,191 sq mi), it is the largest lake in Central America, the 19th largest lake in the world and the tenth largest in the Americas, slightly smaller than Lake Titicaca. With an elevation of 32.7 metres (107 ft) above sea level, the lake reaches a depth of 26 metres (85 ft). It is intermittently joined by the Tipitapa River to Lake Managua.

Contents

Overview

Construction of the waterway will allow the passage of ocean-going barges that can be loaded at a new lake port to be built in the Lake of Nicaragua and discharged at upriver ports, like how the United States takes advantage of its extensive inland waterway system. An exploration concession Ley 319 for the project was unanimously approved by Nicaragua's National Assembly in 1999.

Barge flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river, canal transport of heavy goods, usually pushed by tugboats

A barge is a flat-bottomed ship, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Some barges are not self-propelled and must be towed or pushed by towboats, canal barges or towed by draft animals on an adjacent towpath. Barges contended with the railway in the early Industrial Revolution, but were outcompeted in the carriage of high-value items due to the higher speed, falling costs and route flexibility of railways.

The economic advantage of the project is that it will eliminate transshipment costs at import and export ports, as well as the long road journeys to reach these ports, thereby offering significant cost savings in the overall freight charge. Barges can be loaded directly close to the point of manufacture, and discharged within a couple of hundred kilometres of the final point of delivery. Transport cost savings are estimated at more than US$1,000 per FEU (forty-foot equivalent container).

Transshipment shipment of goods or containers to an intermediate destination

Transshipment or transhipment is the shipment of goods or containers to an intermediate destination, then to another destination.

Twenty-foot equivalent unit container unit

The twenty-foot equivalent unit is an inexact unit of cargo capacity often used to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals. It is based on the volume of a 20-foot-long (6.1 m) intermodal container, a standard-sized metal box which can be easily transferred between different modes of transportation, such as ships, trains and trucks.

The San Juan river is 200 kilometres long. The total waterway length from a lakeport in the vicinity of Granada/Tipitapa on the northern shore of the Lake of Nicaragua, to the outlet of the San Juan river at San Juan del Norte, is some 360 kilometres. The principal obstacles to navigation are six sets of rapids along the river, and sand bars in shallower parts of the river. Average channel depth in the river during the dry season is around six feet (1.83m), with variations from around one foot (0.30m) to over 30 feet (9.14m). The average width of the river is some 200 metres.

To make the waterway navigable requires the construction of three locks to bypass the rapids and the dredging of the largest sandbars in the river. No dam construction is contemplated as the 8,000 square-kilometre lake of Nicaragua provides a sufficient reserve of water to maintain navigation depth and to operate the locks throughout the different seasons of the year, once the locks and dredging are complete.

The 2.44 m minimum depth after dredging, will allow the passage of shallow-draft barges, with cargo loads of up to 1,500 tons or 75 FEU at full draft of approximately 2 metres. The barges will be pushed by a towboat along the San Juan river and will be of an ocean-going design, with a protected and reinforced prow and ballasting capability for stability for crossing the open waters of the Caribbean. Such a design will allow the barges to be towed on the Lake of Nicaragua, and across the Caribbean Sea to different key points such as Panama, Jamaica, New Orleans or Key West, the latter two being entry points to the US inland waterway system.

The 2.44m navigation depth has been determined to be the most appropriate solution after modelling trade-offs between construction costs, capacity utilisation and scale economies. [3]

In 2013 the Nicaraguan Government announced abandonment of the San Juan River route, in favour of an inter-oceanic canal, which will fully compete with the Panama Canal and which is to be funded by the Chinese HKND Group. [4]

Nicaragua Canal proposed shipping route across Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan Canal, formally the Nicaraguan Canal and Development Project was a proposed shipping route through Nicaragua to connect the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean. Scientists were concerned about the project's environmental impact, as Lake Nicaragua is Central America's key freshwater reservoir while the project's viability was questioned by shipping experts and engineers.

Panama Canal Large artificial waterway in the Republic of Panama, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

The Panama Canal is an artificial 82 km (51 mi) waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a conduit for maritime trade. Canal locks are at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 26 m above sea level, and then lower the ships at the other end. The original locks are 34 m wide. A third, wider lane of locks was constructed between September 2007 and May 2016. The expanded canal began commercial operation on June 26, 2016. The new locks allow transit of larger, post-Panamax ships, capable of handling more cargo.

See also

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Pusher (boat) boat designed for pushing barges or car floats

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Scarpe (river) river in France

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History of the Nicaragua Canal

There is a long history of attempts to build a canal across Nicaragua to connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. Construction of such a shipping route—using the San Juan River as an access route to Lake Nicaragua—was first proposed in the early colonial era. Napoleon III wrote an article about its feasibility in the middle of the 19th century. The United States abandoned plans to construct a waterway in Nicaragua in the early 20th century after it purchased the French interests in the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal was built and that is now the main connecting route across Central America.

The Jefferson Seaway was a proposed deep-draft ship channel to be created in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, that would establish a route between the Mississippi River at Westwego and the Gulf of Mexico near Grand Isle. The Mississippi River provided the only deep-water access to New Orleans and its neighboring ports. In the mid-20th century, the creation of alternate routes was considered, including the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO), which was ultimately selected, funded and constructed. The Jefferson Seaway, sometimes referred to as the Arrow to the Americas, the Mississippi Valley Seaway Canal, the Tidewater Ship Canal and the Barataria Canal, was also under consideration but ultimately was never constructed as a deep-draft channel.

References

  1. Canal proposed to revive Nicaraguan waterway. Reuters newswire. 3 September 1998
  2. Crece idea de "Canal Húmedo". El Nuevo Diario, Managua, Nicaragua. 15 de Septiembre de 1998
  3. A Shallow-Draft Waterway in the San Juan River, Nicaragua. Tim Coone, Technical Director Ecocanal SA. 2009
  4. Arias, L. (14 May 2013). "Nicaragua says planned inter-oceanic canal won't be built on the San Juan". Tico Times. Retrieved 11 June 2013.