Nicaragua lobbies for second $18B canal

Updated: 2006-10-04 07:40

MANAGUA - Nicaragua lobbied Monday for support for an $18 billion canal linking the Pacific and Atlantic, saying a second international waterway is needed to handle the world's booming shipping business.

President Enrique Bolanos made his pitch to defense ministers meeting in Managua for the seventh Western Hemisphere's Defense Ministers Conference.

"The galloping increase in world business demands another canal in addition to a widened Panama Canal," Bolanos told the ministers from more than 30 countries.

Bolanos' proposal comes as Panama is set to vote Oct. 22 on whether to widen the Panama Canal, the biggest modification to the waterway since it opened in 1914. Panamanian officials have said the widening is vital to the Central American nation's future.

That $5.3 billion Panamanian project would add a third set of locks, reducing the long lines of ships waiting to cross the canal and allowing larger vessels to pass through.

Public opinion polls indicate the measure is likely to pass.

Nicaragua has been pushing for its own canal for nearly a century. Bolanos argued that his country's setting, including its rivers and low-lying land, would allow for a canal to be built with relative ease and little investment. He said it would complement Panama's, not compete against it.