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Japan shipping giant plans first regular Arctic route
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) July 09, 2014

Nicaragua endorses route for Chinese-built canal
Managua (AFP) July 09, 2014 - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega endorsed Tuesday a route chosen by a Chinese firm commissioned to dig a 40 billion dollar canal linking the Caribbean and the Pacific.

HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. (HKND) announced Monday it settled on one of six possible routes for the 278 kilometer (174 mile) waterway to rival the Panama Canal.

Construction is scheduled to begin late this year.

This particular path, known as No. 4, was picked because it would be the most respectful of the environment, according to the company.

It will take advantage of the presence in Nicaragua of Lake Cocibolca, Central America's largest body of freshwater.

"We are happy with the information that the company has provided to the Nicaraguan people," Ortega said during a televised meeting with Wang Jing, chairman of HKND.

Ortega said studies carried out by the company over the past year since it was hired to build the canal "have shown us that the result of their work is going to bring benefits to the people of Nicaragua."

The Chinese firm plans environmental mitigation efforts such as reforestation and moving animals to other parts of the country, said the president.

Ortega said the project will create so much work it will help alleviate poverty that affects more than half the population of Nicaragua.

Wang, who appeared with Ortega as he concluded a four day visit to the Central American country, said the waterway would be "environmentally friendly."

Japan's Mitsui O.S.K. Lines on Wednesday announced plans for the world's first regular commercial shipping route through the Arctic Ocean, starting in 2018, in an attempt to reduce sailing times.

The firm said it would initially start moving liquefied natural gas from Russian's huge Yamal LNG project to markets in Europe and Asia on a trio of icebreakers, as part of a joint venture with China Shipping (Group) Co.

The specially designed ships, built by South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, would cost a total of about 100 billion yen ($990 million), Mitsui said.

"This is an unprecedented project in the Arctic route," the Japanese shipping giant said.

The Arctic voyage -- impassable for conventional ships during much of the year -- could knock about one-quarter off the usual travel time through the Suez Canal, or about 10 days.

The Arctic has seen growing international interest in recent years, as global warming causes the Arctic ice cap to melt and opens new navigation routes that allow for the use of previously inaccessible raw materials.

French energy group Total was also involved in the Yamal project, which was expected to have a capacity of 16.5 million tonnes per year and see the commissioning of 16 icebreaker tankers, each able to transport 170,000 cubic metres of gas.

"The project ensures production and marketing of the Russian Arctic's vast natural gas reserves," Total said.

In early January Canada began construction on the first route linking the Arctic Ocean to the North American continent, which should speed up oil and gas exploration in the desolate region.

The Arctic is believed to hold about 22 percent of the world's unexplored conventional hydrocarbon resources.


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