Competition in unexpected places

Competition has already arrived in bits of the marketplace that seemed out of reach not long ago: domestic electricity and gas supply for instance. So called ‘natural’ monopolies turn out not to be so natural when you put them under the free-market microscope. How about this, though. I bet you never expected to see competition in waterways linking the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Nicaragua just announced a plan to build (dig? construct?) a canal across the whole (really quite wide) country, via the San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua, wide and deep enough for even the largest supertankers. Unsurprisingly, the people of Panama responded by voting 3-to-1 to back a plan to widen their own Canal to meet the demands of Modern Shipping.

The wild card in all this Pacific-Atlantic-Pacific to-and-fro is – you’ll never guess – the Arctic Ocean which, by the time the Central Americans have finished their fancy canals, will have been conveniently cleared of ice by global warming. Since it’ll cost upwards of $500,000 to make one passage via Panama or Nicaragua, the Northern route is going to look pretty attractive for lots of destinations and Alaska will probably be the next Florida.