Emissions and Ecological Impacts of Panama Canal Expansion and Nicaragua Canal Construction
Canal Authority has recently invested nearly $6 billion to make infrastructure
improvements to the Panama Canal. These improvements, which were completed in June
2016, include deepening and widening critical segments of the canal and constructing
two new sets of lock chambers to accommodate larger vessels. There are
also draft plans for the development of another set of Panama Canal locks
(valued over $16 billion), and also a Nicaragua canal between Punta Gorda and
Brito transiting Lake Nicaragua. The proposed Nicaragua canal would pass
through a number of undisturbed areas including several biosphere reserves,
coastal wetlands, and migratory pathways. In addition, the canal route would
run through Lake Nicaragua, an important source of drinking water and habitat
for a number of rare species. Nicaraguan authorities estimate that the canal
will take five years to construct and cost $50 billion. However, the status and
viability of that project are uncertain.
Enhancements to the Panama Canal and the
development of a canal in Nicaragua will allow significantly larger ships (more
than twice the size of current Panamax vessels) to transit the isthmus and are
expected to result in significant changes to global shipping patterns. Increased
capacity of the Canal Zone, with the dual use of the old, new and proposed sets
of locks, and Nicaragua route, is likely to increase emissions in the Zone. But
also provide increased opportunities to reduce trip lengths, fuel usage and
overall emissions (in shipping lanes, land-side intermodal corridors and
seaports). Many ports are also investing hundreds of millions to deepen
entrance channels, widen turning basins, modify berths, purchase larger
equipment and raise bridges to allow port calls for these larger vessels.
of a comprehensive assessment of net air quality impacts and benefits of the
Panama Canal expansion and the possible development of a Nicaragua canal. This would include an evaluation of anticipated
changes in vessel traffic, as well as an assessment of potential downstream changes
in infrastructure at affected ports and their impact on air quality.
vessel traffic patterns will provide air quality benefits through lower
emissions in some areas and increases in others, depending on the new routes
that carriers select. Additional benefits will be realized from larger vessels
that have lower emissions and move more cargo. Policy makers will need
information about actual changes in traffic to target initiatives for
of a new canal route in Nicaragua and the resultant increased vessel traffic
could harm several fragile ecosystems. The route could change the salinity
regime and hydrodynamics, and increase underwater noise, spill potential, and
air emissions. Considerable research has been conducted on the impacts that the
Panama Canal expansion will have on global trade, but less research has been
conducted for the Nicaragua canal.
following three Phases are not comprehensive.
They are intended as a guide to what might be necessary to successfully
complete the research:
review historic and projected vessel
activities, characteristics, composition for calendar years 2000 through 2050,
associated with the expansion of the Panama Canal and the potential development
of the Nicaraguan Canal.
Develop a set of
model vessels that transit the enhanced Panama Canal and Nicaraguan Canal. Include sufficient data to estimate emissions
from these vessels.
Map out current
and future routes taking into consideration global population growth, trade
trends, capacity constraints and depth limitation (using both current and
authorized depths) of the ports that may be receiving these vessels.
Using the model
vessels and current and projected routes, estimate current and future emissions.
Projections should consider transitions in fuel types over time (e.g., switch
to LNG or low sulfur bunker).
volume of cargo diverted from alternate routes (including landside intermodal
movements, and vessels transiting around the Cape Horn and Suez Canal), and
estimate associated emissions reductions to these routes.
consider Pacific and Gulf of Mexico transloading and transshipment
opportunities and trends.
Provide a summary
of Phase 1 activities, including summary of vessel traffic assumptions, GIS
maps of current and projected routes along with associated emissions and
emission reductions for diverted cargo.
studies of the Nicaraguan’s ecosystems that the new canal will transit. Including
* Changes in the salinity
regime and hydrodynamics,
deficiencies and data gaps in these studies and recommend future research that
would help quantify ecological impacts to the development of the canal.
Prepare Phase 1
report on air quality impacts to the expansion of the Panama Canal and
development of the Nicaraguan Canal.
Prepare Phase 2
report of state of knowledge of Ecological impacts of the development of
Nicaraguan Canal, recommending future studies needed to better appreciate the
implement plan to disseminate these reports.
need to establish a projection time period. We should establish a trend of at
least 10 years (I recommend using 2000 to establish a trend before 2008
downturn – and look out at least 30 years (design life of most port
such as MARAD and Green Marine could find this information useful in
identifying trends, tracking activity and impacts associated with the canals
and could lead the implementation of this project in conjunction with TRB,
AASHTO, and trade organizations such as American Association of Port
Findings from this research effort will be useful for identifying and projecting trends, research gaps, and assisting industry partners in decision making.
|Sponsoring Committee:||AW030, Marine Environment
|Research Period:||6 - 12 months|
|RNS Developer:||Richard Billings and Dan Fitz-Patrick|
|Source Info:||Industry expertise from AW030 Marine Environment Committee members.|
|Index Terms:||Pollutants, Environmental impacts, Ecology, Panama Canal, Nicaragua Canal, Canals, Ports, Construction projects, |
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