Panama Canal Authority Administrator Jorge Quijano said he doesn’t expect a planned rival waterway in Nicaragua to be completed because it won’t be able to compete economically with his shipping channel.
“There’s very little hope for actually getting such a canal built because of the competitiveness of the Panama Canal,” Quijano said Thursday in Singapore, where he was attending a conference.
For investors in the Nicaragua project to get a return that they will accept, that waterway would need to charge tolls twice as high as those for the Panama canal, Quijano said. “So it will not be competitive,” he said.
Nicaragua in June 2013 granted Chinese telecommunications billionaire Wang Jing’s HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. rights to build an inter-oceanic canal that the Central American nation projects will cost $50 billion and take six years to complete.
The new waterway would be more likely to take 14 years to build and cost as much as $70 billion, Quijano said.
The official construction estimate “is very, very compressed,” he said.
Wang’s Hong Kong-based HKND Group has a 50-year concession to build the new canal. The estimated cost is more than four times Nicaragua’s 2013 gross domestic product.
A $5.3 billion enlargement of the Panama Canal is likely to be completed by the first quarter of 2016. Quijano said in August last year that officials are studying whether to dig a fourth set of locks to handle the growing fleet of super-sized ships as the current expansion, which was approved by voters in a 2006 referendum, may not be enough.

Access Roads

Wang is chairman of more than 20 enterprises in 35 countries, including Beijing Xinwei Telecom Technology Inc., according to HKND’s website. HKND describes itself as an international infrastructure developer that will design, build, and operate the canal, its first project.
HKND didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking a reaction to Quijano’s comments.
Work on access roads for the construction of the Nicaraguan waterway started in December 2014.