Norway charts new waters with world's first tunnel for ships

The 1.7km-long underground canal is expected to open in 2023

Norway charts new waters with world's first tunnel for ships

[Norwegian Coastal Administration]

Norway has revealed ambitious plans to construct the world’s biggest tunnel, with the 1.7km passageway tunnelling under a rocky peninsula designed to allow freight and passenger ships to bypass the stormy seas around the south-west of the country.

The Stad Ship Tunnel will stand 27 metres high and 26.5 wide, according to the Norwegian Coastal Administration, which estimates the engineering project will cost at least 2.7bn kroner (€300m).

Announcing the project, Norwegian transport minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen said that the tempestuous waters around the area “result in particularly complex wave conditions.”

The mix of strong currents and rocky underwater topography has meant that the idea of tunnelling through the countryside has been floated for years, but the project has just secured financing. Building a canal was impossible given the mountainous terrain, which reaches an elevation as high as 335m.

“We are pleased that this ship tunnel will now become a reality,” Solvik-Olsen said, revealing that the tunnel will be located at the narrowest part of the Stadlandet peninsula, where there are storms 45 to 106 days out of the year.

Construction is anticipated to begin in 2019, with an estimated 8m tonnes of rock to be blasted out of the way as the tunnel bridges the two inlets. Should everything go to plan, the tunnel will be open for ships by 2023, with those measuring less than 70m able to use it for free.

Passenger vessels will be given priority, but leisure and freight boats will also be allowed to use the tunnel, with a radio traffic centre controlling the shipping lane to avoid congestion.

Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta has been tasked with designed the entrances to the tunnel, giant stone arches that cut into the steep cliffs and forest. The firm’s designers also designed the way-finding lightning inside the tunnel, and will use LED hoses to create a range of effects, including an experience of the Northern Lights.

For more travel news on Newstalk.com, please click here.