Manmade Shipping Canals -Nurul Huda
Canals are manmade. It is reported that the first canals were constructed some 3,000 years ago. Those canals were for constructed for the purpose of irrigation, allowing water reach to some place where it is necessary for human use. Later, canals have been constructed to help boats and ships pass from one place to another. In many cases, these canals shorten distances and saves time and money. Although with the advent of more efficient forms of transportation, the use of canals have been reduced, some are still playing a vital role in the economy of the world. Some of the famous manmade canals around the world are presented here.
The Suez Canal
A 400-meter long container ship blocked the canal and an estimated of $9.6 billion worth of trade was hampered due to the blockade – this perhaps reveals the importance of the Suez canal in the world economy. It is one of the world’s busiest trade routes. Located in Egypt, between Africa and Asia, the Suez Canal is one of the most famous man made canals. The canal connects the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and divides Africa and Asia.
The construction of the 193.3 km long canal was started in 1858 and it took 10 years to complete the construction. Officially it was opened on 17 November 1869. Due to the Suez Canal, approximately 8900 kilometers of distance is reduced. For a regular vessel, it saves 8 to 10 days of journey by offering a direct route between the North Atlantic and northern Indian oceans via the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.
The canal has been the property of the Egyptian government; however, a company owned by the European shareholders operated the Suez Canal until July 1956. Then, it was nationalized by Gamal Abdel Nasser. Now, the canal is operated and maintained by the state-owned Suez Canal Authority of Egypt.
It is estimated that 8% if the international trade uses the structure and around 50 vessels traverse through the canal every day. The Suez Canal Authority opened a new side channel located at the northern side of the east extension of the Suez Canal in 2016.
The Kiel Canal
The Kiel Canal, located in Germany, is considered as the most-widely used canal in the world. In 2017, more than 43,000 ships crossed it. The canal was built between 1887 and 1895 and it links the North Sea and the Baltic sea. The 98 kilometer long canal reduces the distance of 519 kilometers, saving time as well as storm-prone seas.
The canal, formerly known as Kaiser-Wilhelm Canal, was constructed by the German government to serve German military needs by eliminating the necessity for ships to travel northward around the Danish peninsula. The canal has been enlarged twice and is today 160 meters (526 feet) wide and 11 meters (37 feet) deep and is spanned by seven high-level bridges.
Prior to World War I, the canal was owned by the German government, however, after World War II, the Treaty of Versailles laid down regulations that internationalized the canal leaving it under German administration. As per the treaty, the canal is open to vessels of commerce and of war of any nation at peace with Germany.
These days, the canal is used by 90-130 ships per day, and it can easily be transited within a day, although particularly big vessels sometimes have to wait in designated sidings before they can proceed. There’s a lock at either end, but there’s not a huge difference between sea-level and canal level; the locks are mainly to defend the canal against the movements of the tides.
The Rhine-Main-Danube Canal is in Germany and it connects two rivers – the Main and the Danube. The 171 kilometer long canal connects the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. The canal was constructed in different phases and it wasn’t finished until 1992. It is also known as the Europa Canal.
To cross the Europa canal, travelers need to sail over a bridge. There is a passage, in the mountainous region of Solarberg (Germany), in which the beds of the Danube and Main rivers are artificially linked to the Rhine. The heights of the different places vary immensely. The vessels overcome the differences by a sequential system of 16 locks. Besides the locks and beautiful scenery, the canal is attractive to many visitors. Those with an interest in canal locks and river navigation systems will relish the opportunity to witness the Rhine-Main-Danube canal’s vast lock gates in action. Over the course of the passage, the locks lift ships up to 406 metres above sea level, with some of the largest gateways requiring a transit time of around 30 minutes to raise or lower the ship to the required height.
The Panama Canal
One of the best known man made canal, the Panama Canal, a 77 km long waterway, is one of the most incredible engineering feats of mankind. It connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. For 103 years the crossing between these two oceans has been crucial for international trade and tourism.
During the construction, Colombia, France and later the United States controlled the territory surrounding the canal. In 1881, the construction was begun by France but was stopped because of engineering problems and a high worker mortality rate. The United States took over the project in 1904 and opened the canal on August 15, 1914. The canal was controlled by the US until 1977 and after a period of joint American-Panamanian control, the canal was taken over by the Panamanian government in 1999. Now, it is managed and operated by the government-owned Panama Canal Authority.
Since the oceans that the canal connects with are not at the same level, the canal uses Lock Gates on either side to lift the vessel to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 26 meter above the sea level and then lower the ships at the other end. After it was opened in the year 1914, the canal helps vessels transiting between the east and west coasts of the US to shorten their journey by 15,000 km. In 2017, the Panama Canal witnessed the arrival of a total of 13,548 vessels and received 403.8 million tons of cargo.
Although Gabkhan Channel, the Suez Canal of Bangladesh, cannot be compared with any of the above canals, it plays a vital role in the economy of Bangladesh. The only man-made naval canal of the country connects Pirojpur district with Jhalakati district. The 18-kilometer long canal was excavated during the British period, from 1912 to 1918, to connect the Sandha River of Pirojpur and the Sugandha River of Jhalakati that reduces the distance on the Dhaka-Mongla and Chittagong-Mongla river routes by about 118 kilometers or eight hours. Around 15-25 vessels cross the channel in a day.
While playing a vital role in the world economy, these manmade canals also offers beautiful scenario surrounding them. Every year people around the world put efforts to experience journeys in these waterways.