Construction of the World’s first large ship tunnel could start early next year. The project is now in Norway’s National Transportation Plan which greatly increases the likelihood that the NOK 2.3 billion funding allocated for this project will allow work to start in the near future.
The coast of Norway has many offshore islands which allow coastal shipping to make passages mainly through protected inshore routes. The main exception to this is around the headland of the Stad Peninsula where shipping is fully exposed to open ocean weather and seas which can cause delays and dangerous conditions for shipping. The ambitious ship tunnel plan would create a way to bypass this peninsular, creating a safer and more reliable route for shipping.
With the Norwegian Government having already set aside the money for this project it now seems likely that the Stad Ship Tunnel will be constructed. It will have a length of 1.7 km, will have a headroom of 37 m and a width on the water surface of 26.5 m.
Top architecture and design firm Snøhetta has designed the entrances, and the company’s early plans for the tunnel show sculpted tunnel openings and a bright LED lighting system for the tunnel interior. “A tunnel was selected for this new route in preference to a normal canal because route had to pass through 300 metre mountains which would have made a canal impossible.” commented the Stad Ship Tunnel Project Manager, Terje Andreassen.
“We needed to find a way to make a safer alternative for sailing past the dangerous water outside the Stad Peninsula, and reduce the waiting time for vessels during harsh weather. This is the most hazardous part of the Norwegian coastline with more than 100 days of storms every year.” Present projects suggest that an average of 19 ships a day will use the tunnel although the capacity will be 100 ships per day. There will be one-way traffic which will alternate in direction every hour with slot times given to all commercial vessels.
The tunnel will be constructed first by drilling horizontally and using explosives to dig out the roof section of the tunnel. Once the roof has been secured with bolts and anchors and Shotcrete applied the rest of the tunnel will be dug out to a level of 12 metres below sea level with rock dams holding back the water. About 3 billion cubic metres of rock will have to be removed and it will be transported away by barge. It is estimated that construction work will take between 3 and 4 years.
Once completed it will be possible to operate fast ferry services between Bergen and Alesund and it is likely that both the Hurtigruten coastal passenger ships and the large trade in fish from northern waters will benefit for the short cut.