Behold, the world’s first ship tunnel

by | Apr 20, 2021 | Articles

While we all rightly marveled at the incredible achievement that is flying a helicopter on Mars, we also noticed a more terrestrial leap that mankind was trying to make: The world’s first ship tunnel. Specifically, Norway has given funding and approval to begin construction for a canal tunnel that can carry large ships through a narrow isthmus in a peninsula as opposed to around Norway’s rocky northwestern coast.

There are certainly submarine bases that utilize tunnels to move vessels in and out of open water, but there are actually fewer operating tunnels for ships than you’d think. Most narrow strips of land where ships must traverse are connected by canals, as in the Suez Canal. The only consistently operating public boat tunnel of any length in the world appears to be an extremely narrow one in the United Kingdom.

The Norwegians are not interested in destroying the mountainside, and so a tunnel is the only option. It’s a gargantuan task and the engineering behind it is pretty incredible, as detailed by project manager Terje Andreassen, who talked to New Civil Engineer about the project and provided the renderings seen in this article.

Materials will be transported by sea because the roads are not large enough for construction vehicles. Meanwhile, the tunnel itself will be created using a drill and blast method. However this poses its own challenges as the tunnel itself needs to be 50m high and 26.5m wide to allow ships to pass through.

“Because of the height, you have to do the drilling and blasting in several different levels, starting at the top with ordinary drill and blast – you drill horizontally and blast,” Andreassen said. “When you’ve done the securing work, you start to move downwards. Then you do excavation the same as open mining – you drill vertically and blast.”

Either roads or smaller tunnels will be constructed to facilitate access to the different levels.

Andreassen explained: “You have these levels of 10m or 12m so to move from one level to another is a challenge.  You could make a preliminary road up or you could make a small service tunnel – in one or both sides of the tunnel – for transport in and out.

It’s quite the undertaking, but with construction to begin next year there’s a chance the tunnel could be open by 2025.

Engineer testing scale model of tunnel.
Stad Ship Tunnel rendering.
Stad Ship Tunnel rendering.