A proposed interoceanic canal traversing Costa Rica has attracted renewed enthusiasm and potential funding from Saudi Arabia’s government. The petroleum-rich kingdom has expressed strong interest in bankrolling the mega-project anticipated to cost between $10 and $15 billion.
Costa Rica’s Chancellor Arnoldo André Tinoco revealed Saudi Arabia’s keen interest in discussions with the country’s Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih. While no formal agreements have been reached, the prospect of Saudi investment has pushed Costa Rican officials to reexamine the canal’s feasibility.
Tinoco stressed that for a project of this scale, comprehensive preliminary studies are imperative. Detailed analyses of projected cargo volumes and long-term market demands over 20 to 100 years would need to justify the monumental infrastructure investment. Global shipping companies have yet to conduct such extensive pre-feasibility studies.
The canal concept, coined the “Dry Canal,” first emerged locally in 2016 courtesy of the private firm Cansec. Their proposal involves constructing two giant ports in Limón and Guanacaste capable of handling mega-ships carrying over 16,000 containers.
Spanning 315 kilometers through largely flat terrain, the canal aims to expedite transits to just 3 hours. It would strategically link vital points along both coasts, transforming Costa Rica into a shipping hub.
While the previous administration dismissed the idea in 2022, Tinoco believes its potential merits revisiting, especially with Saudi Arabia’s curiosity. Their willingness to invest substantially dwarfs Costa Rica’s fiscal limitations.
With Saudi’s per capita income topping $55,000 compared to Costa Rica’s $12,000, they boast the deep pockets to convert the canal from pipe dream to reality. The associated economic growth could be a game-changer, catapulting Costa Rica to a new global status.
However, past misconduct allegations have also cast a cloud over the canal’s prospects. Cansec’s president accused ex-leaders of eliciting bribes regarding the project, prompting an ongoing investigation.
While feasibility studies are justified given the canal’s enormous scale, any development must adhere to strict transparency standards. Potential corruption issues necessitate extra caution moving forward.
Still, Saudi interest has renewed hopes that Costa Rica could one day be home to a $15 billion interoceanic canal rivaling Panama’s. But officials emphasize that comprehensive analyses remain imperative before even considering Shovels hit the ground. With the right partners and planning, Costa Rica’s “Dry Canal” may transition from concept to reality.