Chinese firm wins $40 billion contract to build Nicaragua’s alternative Panama Canal

The proposed Nicaragua Canal will be nearly three times the length of the Panama Canal (pictured). Image: Flickr

A US$40 billion canal project in Nicaragua to rival the Panama Canal has moved one step closer to being realised after the president of the Nicaraguan National Assembly announced that a Chinese company will be responsible for its construction.


The 130-mile waterway, linking the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, is anticipated to take up to 11 years to complete and would generate as many as 40,000 construction jobs, according to the Guardian, having the potential to double the per-capita gross domestic product of Nicaragua, regarded as one of the poorest nations in Latin America.


Rene Nuñez, the president of the Nicaraguan National Assembly, who announced the news to the country’s national media on Thursday, said that the government plans to grant a concession for the ambitious project to an as yet unnamed Chinese firm for a period of 100 years. The Chinese company will use funds from global investors to execute the project, added Nuñez.


The country’s legislature were due to debate legislation related to the project on Friday, according to legislative leader Nuñez, where two bills aimed at fast tracking the Canal’s construction and assessing its environmental impact were due to be presented to Nicaragua lawmakers.


According to the International Business Times, Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega said recently that the proposed canal will run through Lake Nicaragua. Previous plans stated that the canal would be located much further south alongside the San Juan River.

Ortega also said that the Nicaraguan Canal will be deeper, 60 metres in places, than the Panama Canal , nearly three times as long and will be capable of carrying vessels twice as large.


New cruise ship berth at Kiel

Berth 1 was officially opened just after the arrival of Holland America Line’s Eurodam on Sunday. Image: Port of Kiel | Peter Luehr

Port of Kiel now has a third berth for the call of large cruisers following the opening of the German port’s revamped Berth 1 in the Ostuferhafen.

An inauguration ceremony was held at the port on Sunday morning shortly after the arrival of Holland America Line’s Eurodam vessel. A giant ribbon was cut on the ship’s gangway to officially mark the authorisation and the start of cruise operations at the berth. The ribbon was jointly cut by Ralph Müller-Beck, state secretary in the Schleswig Holstein ministry of economic affairs, employment, transport and technology, Dr. Susanne Gaschke, Lord Mayor of the Federal State Capital of Kiel, Port of Kiel managing director, and Captain Henk Keijer.

“The addition of the Ostuferhafen to the number of berths offered to cruise ships in Kiel provides a valuable new capacity reserve, particularly whenever our cruise ship terminal Ostseekai is in use,” said Dirk Claus.

“We gain the additional flexibility we need and create development prospects for the future.”

“Kiel now has a total of three berths available for the handling of very big cruise ships, as well as other berths for smaller ships.”

Work on the newly enhanced Berth 1 began in the spring. To enable the call of the world’s largest cruisers the berth’s depth was increased to 10 metres along the entire 400-metre quay, while parts of the seabed were also reinforced and extensive fendering installed.

The renovation of Berth 1 is part of a €5.4 million Ostuferhafen development project aimed at expanding freight and logistic capacity and creating a big berth for cruise ships. The development was funded by the German government and supported by the Federal state of Schleswig Holstein.

Tall ships cruising in tandem


Sea Cloud Cruises is offering something unusual for sailing fans this fall as its two sailing ships travel in tandem for several days.

The Hamburg-based line says the 65-passenger Sea Cloud and 94-passenger Sea Cloud II will sail together around the Canary Islands starting on Nov. 20 in a meet-up “designed so that sails and sailing are at the forefront.”

The two vessels will meet in Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands and sail together from Tenerife to La Gomera and El Hierro. Passengers on each of the ships will have the chance to tour the other vessel during an “open house” party planned for Nov. 21 in Tenerife.

To be part of the tandem sailing, sailing fans need to sign up for the Nov. 17 sailing of the Sea Cloud II from Las Palmas to Gran Canaria (fares start at $4,095 per person) or the Nov. 19 sailing of the Sea Cloud from Las Palmas to Gran Canaria (fares start at $4,395 per person).

Built for American cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1931, the Sea Cloud is among the most famous sailing ships afloat and is often billed as the world’s most luxurious tall ship. It features authentic, four-masted rigging and lovely restored interiors that evoke a bygone era.

Venice protests over cruise ships

A protester clashes with police during the blockage of the Venice Tourist Port. Picture: Getty

MASKED protesters in Venice have clashed with riot police as opposition mounts to the massive cruise liners packed with tourists that edge within yards of the city’s fragile churches and palaces.

Protesters waved inflatable beach toys as they tried to push through police lines at the weekend to where cruise ship passengers huddled with their suitcases, as a flotilla of 40 small boats swarmed round the ships, blocking their exit from Venice for hours.

“We want the cruise ships out of the Venice lagoon and this successful demonstration really made that point,” said Silvio Testa, the spokesman for a local pressure group which has led growing protests against the 660 cruise ships that annually skirt St Mark’s Square and inch down the city’s Giudeca canal before docking.

Mr Testa said four vessels carrying about 15,000 passengers had been held up by the protesters, who have swelled in number since a cargo ship smashed into a 165ft-tall observation tower in Genoa harbour in May, toppling it into the sea and killing seven people.

Fears of a incident in Venice were already growing, after the Costa Concordia cruise ship smashed into rocks on the Tuscan island of Giglio last year, while the fragility of Venice’s ancient architecture was evident again yesterday as a section of St Mark’s Square was cordoned off when crumbling bricks fell from the bell tower of the basilica.

“The managers at the port argue that sand banks in the Giudeca canal would stop a ship colliding with buildings, but 110,000 tonnes of cruise ship would have the force to do a lot of damage,” said Gianni Darai, a Venetian activist.

Protesters have also warned of damage to the foundations of buildings as the passing ships displace thousands of tonnes of water, and claim each vessel generates the same amount of pollution as 14,000 cars.

Residents have also complained about the sight of the tower block-like ships looming over Venice’s narrow streets and say souvenir shops catering to cruise holiday tourists who spend a few fleeting hours in the city are pushing rents up and forcing out local shops. But a committee set up to defend the ships has countered that the 1.8 million tourists sailing into town each year provide work for 5,000 families, while the port authority says the business provides 3 per cent of Venice’s GDP.

As a compromise, the port authority has proposed the dredging of an alternative route to the port across the Venice lagoon which avoids the Giudeca canal, partly following a route taken by cargo ships to the mainland port of Marghera.

The plan will be discussed on Thursday in Rome at a meeting between ministers and port managers, held in response to growing alarm in Venice.

But Mr Testa said the cruise ships should be kept out of the lagoon altogether, or substituted with smaller boats.

“One hundred years ago, the average depth of the lagoon was 40cm, but thanks to shipping it has been getting deeper ever since, so it now has the ecosystem of a sea bay, not a lagoon,” he said.

‘Titanic’s little sister’ back in service as Belfast’s latest tourist attraction

Nomadic Charitable Trust chairman Denis Rooney alongside the SS Nomadic in Belfast, where it has been opened to the public following a £9 million refurbishment. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

The Titanic is the ill-fated boat that just keeps giving to Belfast as another Titanic-themed visitor centre opened to the public in the city at the weekend. The SS Nomadic – “Titanic’s little sister” – which ferried first class passengers to the great ship just over 101 years ago has been restored after a £9 million refit project.

It is located at Hamilton dock within very short walking distance of the Titanic Belfast visitor centre and, according to businessman and former head of the International Fund for Ireland Denis Rooney, will “complement rather than compete” with that world attraction.

The Nomadic is quarter the size of the Titanic, which includes having one funnel rather than four, and while its scale is smaller it still contains some of the grandeur of the big ship. Both vessels were built side by side at Harland and Wolff Belfast shipyard and both were designed by Thomas Andrews who along with 1,501 passengers and crew perished on the Titanic.

Where the Titanic was just 13 days in service the Nomadic was a working vessel for 57 years from 1911 to 1968, and is now back in dry dock at its old home but still serving the public. It was brought back from France in 2006, taking seven years of hard work and fundraising to get to this second launching on Saturday.

Despite its humbler size Mr Rooney is confident it will attract more than 40,000 visitors each year to make it fully viable. Tickets cost £8.50 for an adult, £5 for a child and £22 for two adults and two children.

Mr Rooney, who is chairman of the Nomadic Charitable Trust which was responsible for the refurbishment, said that while the Titanic Belfast visitor centre towers above the Nomadic where it differs is in “it offers a real ship experience of the time”.

“I think the Nomadic complements the Titanic visitor centre which has been a huge success,” he added. “You can actually get a sense of having a genuine Titanic experience. But as well as that we have our own rich stories about the Nomadic, about the wars, about the crews, about the passengers…”

The Nomadic, the last remaining vessel of the old White Star Line, first sailed to Cherbourg in France where it was the tender to transport passengers to the Titanic on its one and only catastrophic voyage in April 1912. It later was the tender to cruise liners such as the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth. It also served in both world wars as a troop carrier and mine sweeper.

In 1940 she played a leading part in the evacuation of thousands of people out of Cherbourg which was under siege by the German army. For more than 20 years up until the 1990s variously she was a floating restaurant, cinema, nightclub and casino on the Seine in Paris.

In fact it was that period in Paris that caused the most difficulty and expense. “Because some of the bridges on the River Seine were low the owners decided to decapitate or guillotine the two upper decks – the bridge deck and the flying bridge deck,” explained Mr Rooney.

“A huge part of our cost was restoring the upper decks and all the structural work that that entailed,” he added. That aspect of the work was carried out in Belfast by Harland and Wolff. The overall cost of the project was just over £9 million – £7 million recreating the boat as it was, and some £2 million for the work at the dock and surrounding area. This contrasts with the £90 million cost of its neighbouring attraction.

Visitors to the Nomadic are brought on a tour of the vessel lasting at least an hour and a quarter. They walk along the various decks and sit in the first class bar and reception area where the 142 passengers who embarked from Cherbourg were entertained before reaching the Titanic situated in deeper water. They experience the class systems of the period with a separate lounge and gangway for the 30 second class passengers who made that journey.

A Quadcopter’s-Eye View Of The Costa Concordia Shipwreck

The wreck of the cruise ship Costa Concordia in early 2012 resulted in 32 deaths and the destruction of the ship, resulting in a $US300 million salvage operation that may be the most expensive in history. A pair of quadcopters equipped with cameras capture the sad vessel and the massive operation to remove it from the rocks.

According to Team BlackSheep, who created this video:

This video was shot at the location of a tragic accident. It is not our interest to gain attention on the backs of those who have lost loved ones. This video is supposed to be a showcase for possible UAV applications. Our goal is to display the stranded ship in a never-before seen way. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who drowned on this day and we are hoping for a swift removal to reveal again the underlying beauty of Giglio Island, Italy.

Indeed, the video doesn’t seem particularly voyeuristic, but shows how close you can get with small, lightweight camera rigs that don’t risk human life and have a low potential of causing any damage

Here’s a link to a local web-cam for cuurent update


Finally the cruise-lines take their passengers seriously

NEW YORK — The cruise industry said that it’s adopting a passenger bill of rights that guarantees the “safety, comfort and care” of guests.

The bill of rights promises, among other things, full refunds for trips that are cancelled due to mechanical failure, and a backup power source on every ship to keep emergency systems running in the event of a main generator failure.

The announcement by the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 25 major companies including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Holland America and Cunard, comes in the aftermath of the Carnival Triumph debacle. The ship drifted for several days earlier this year without power as passengers endured filthy conditions.

Christine Duffy, president and CEO of CLIA, said the idea for the bill of rights came about in response to demands from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

In March, Schumer asked the industry to guarantee passengers minimum standards and protections while on a ship, including sanitary conditions, back-up power,medical care and refunds in the event of a power failure.

In a phone interview, Duffy acknowledged that many of the steps outlined in the bill of rights are already standard practice for most major cruise lines — such as providing refunds for trips disrupted by mechanical failure and equipping ships with backup power for emergency systems like lighting.

But she added that while “some of our members are already doing these things, a big part of the bill of rights is being consistent across the cruise industry, making these things transparent so that they do become part of the contractual agreement between the passenger and the cruise lines.”

CLIA said the bill of rights would be effective immediately for U.S. passengers who purchase their cruise in North America on CLIA’s North American member cruise lines. The association also said that it had submitted the bill of rights to the International Maritime Organization, “requesting formal global recognition and applicability.”

The bill also gives passengers the right to disembark a docked ship if “essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided onboard,” subject to safety, security and local customs and immigration laws.

In addition to a full refund for trips canceled due to mechanical failure, the bill guarantees partial refunds for voyages that are terminated early due to those failures.

The bill also guarantees “the right to transportation” to the ship’s scheduled final port or the passenger’s home city in the event the trip is terminated early due to mechanical failures.