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Cold water poured on Panama Canal alternative

by Lloyd's List last modified Feb 16, 2011 01:11 PM

Engineers and investors say the cost of transiting boxes through the proposed Atlantic-Pacific land bridge would be prohibitive.

Plans floated by Chinese investors to build a rival to the Panama Canal in Colombia have been dismissed by local port investors and experts alike.

Documents provided to Lloyd’s List by the Financial Times illustrate ambitious plans by Chinese investor Global Comprehensive Development to link Colombia’s Pacific and Atlantic coastlines with a 220 km land bridge.

The route could run from a new greenfield port in the Bay of Cupica, on the Pacific coast, to a port in the Gulf of Uraba, on the Caribbean Sea coast. 

Oscar Isaza, managing director of TC Buen, which is the first brownfield port to be developed in Colombia for a decade, dismissed the proposals on the grounds of complexity, environmental issues and efficiency.

The land bridge concept was included as part of a more detailed proposal to build a US$5bn-$8bn rail link connecting Buenaventura, on the North Pacific Ocean coast, to the industrial heartland of Bogot, which is in the centre of the country, and coal reserves further east.

Panama’s Canal Authority argues that a dry route would handle a container up to six times before being loaded on a vessel, at a cost of up to $500 per box per transit, in contrast to the price of $82 per teu per transit through the canal.

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