US$2.3bn dry canal plan back on track

Monday, September 13, 2004

Business partners behind a US$2.3bn plan to build a 'dry canal' across Guatemala connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, will visit Singapore on September 15 to seek financial backing for the project, La Prensa Libre reported.

After two years in which the project disappeared from the public eye, businessmen from the Latin American Office for Business and Relationships (Odepal) say they still believe their project is feasible.

Odepal has been invited by the government of Singapore to speak about their proposals at the 'LatinAsia Biz 2004' conference, which will also be attended by 250 shipping and cargo companies.

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Odepal proposes constructing two ports, an airport and two railway lines along a 550km route traveling between Puerto Barrios on Guatemala's Atlantic coast and Champerico on the country's Pacific coast.

The organization believes that the Panama Canal will be unable to deal with the increase in global commercial traffic brought about by China's economic expansion.

Odepal's vice-president José Maria Argueta said the dry canal would generate more than 20,000 jobs for Guatemala and approximately US$350mn a year in revenue for the country.

The project already has the backing of Guatemalan president Óscar Berger, as well as US$250mn in financial backing from the German bank Group One AG, Argueta said. The company also has meetings planned with possible investors in Japan, Hong Kong and Spain.