Norway’s $325 Million Ship Tunnel Gets Go-Ahead
Construction of the world’s first shipping tunnel will soon get underway in western Norway following government approval of startup funds. The Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket) has proposed a plan to complete a tender process in 2021 and start construction in 2022 ahead of a planned opening in 2025 or 2026.
The 1.7 kilometer (1.06 miles) tunnel will be large enough to allow cargo vessels and most ships in the coastal voyage fleet to pass through. It will allow vessels to bypass the dangerous waters of Stad, an exposed area of ocean along the Norwegian coastline with a notorious reputation. However, many cruise ships will be too large for the tunnel.
The team behind the project—known as the Stad Ship Tunnel—said it is a “prerequisite” for increasing safety and security for seafarers in western Norway. For more than 100 years, a tunnel has been proposed to help ships bypass Stad, where the combination of wind, ocean current and waves makes the stretch a demanding one for vessels of all sizes.
According to the Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Vikings pulled their ships over land to avoid sailing around Stad in bad weather.
The organization explained that ocean currents and the seabed’s topography create difficult and often unexpected wave conditions: “Very high waves come from different directions at the same time and create critical situations for vessels. Heavy seas can also linger for several days after the wind has calmed down, which in turn leads to difficult sailing conditions, even on quiet days.”
While best known for its picturesque fjords, the west coast of Norway is an economic powerhouse in fisheries and aquaculture. Norway already exports farmed and wild fish to more than 150 countries and the industry is predicted to have rapid growth in the years to come.
However, a lot of coastal goods transport takes place on land, largely due to the potential risks of sailing around Stad. One shipping company claimed around 20% of boats are delayed at Stad, risking quality issues. A shorter, safer shipping route through the Stad tunnel should result in more reliable short sea shipping routes becoming established along the Norwegian west coast.
The 75 million Norwegian kroner ($8.7 million) required to kick-start the project had initially been excluded from Norway’s proposed 2021 budget, despite the project’s inclusion in the National Transport Plan.
But opposition parties lobbied hard and support from former coalition member the Progress Party was key to getting the government to change its mind. The total cost of the project is expected to reach 2.8 billion Norwegian kroner ($325 million).
“We will now start the processes of acquisition of properties in the area where the ship tunnel will be located, as well as put in place a project organization, prepare a tender basis and initiate a tender,” explained project manager Terje Andreassen.