Saimaa Canal

The Saimaa Canal (Finnish: Saimaan kanava; Swedish: Saima kanal; Russian: Сайменский канал) is a transportation canal that connects lake Saimaa with the Gulf of Finland near Vyborg, Russia. The canal was built from 1845 to 1856 and opened on 7 September 1856 (Old Style: 26 August 1856). It was overhauled and widened in 1963–1968.

Saimaa Canal
Course of the Saimaa Canal
Length42.9 km (27 mi)
Maximum boat length82.5 m (271 ft)
Maximum boat beam12.6 m (41 ft)
Minimum boat draft4.35 m (14.3 ft)
Minimum boat air draft24.5 m (80 ft)
Construction began1845
Date completed1856
Start pointlake Saimaa, Finland
End pointGulf of Finland near Vyborg, Russia

A system of inland waterways and canals in the 120 interconnected lakes of the south-central and south-east part of Finland (Finnish Lakeland) are reached through the canal. The network of deep channels in Lake Saimaa with at least a draught of 4.2 metres (14 ft) covers 814 kilometres (506 mi). The deep channels extend all the way to Kuopio in Central Finland.


The canal begins near Lauritsala, Lappeenranta, Finland (61°04′43″N 028°16′24″E) and ends in Vyborg, Russia (60°48′38″N 028°44′13″E), connecting Lake Saimaa and the Vyborg Bay. On the way, it connects Lake Nuijamaa, on the Finnish–Russian border (60°57′6″N 28°34′33″E), and three smaller lakes in Russia.


  • Length: 42.9 km (26.7 mi)
    • Finnish part: 23.3 km (14.5 mi)
    • Russian part: 19.6 km (12.2 mi)
  • Width: from 34 to 55 m (112 to 180 ft)
  • Total lift from the Gulf of Finland to Lake Saimaa: 75.7 m (248 ft)
  • The "Saimax" specification, in analogy to Panamax, specifies the maximum size and required equipment. The maximum dimensions allowed for a ship transiting the canal are:
    • Length: 82.5 m (271 ft)
    • Beam (width): 12.6 m (41 ft)
    • Draft: 4.35 m (14.3 ft)
    • Height of mast: 24.5 m (80 ft)
    • Other requirements include for example that trading vessels must have two VHF radios and an automatic identification system (AIS).
  • 217 boundary pillars between Canal Rented Zone and main territory of Russia.


There are three locks in the Finnish part of the canal

Other five locks situated on the Russian side of the border:

Mälkiä Lock has highest lift (12.4 m (41 ft)), Tsvetochnoye Lock has the lowest (5.5 m (18 ft)).


The canal crosses

  • 12 motor vehicles bridges:
    • 6 of them in Finland – 3 movable and 3 immovable
    • the other 6 in Russia – 4 movable and 2 immovable
  • 2 railroad bridges (one on the each side of the border), both of them are immovable.


The canal, inaugurated in 1856, was built between the cities of Lappeenranta and Vyborg (now part of Russia), both of them then in the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire.

In the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940, Finland ceded the Karelian Isthmus and Vyborg to the Soviet Union; control of the canal was divided and traffic ended.

Finland obtained a 50 year lease on the Soviet part of the canal and Maly Vysotsky Island (Ravansaari) in 1963. Finland constructed a deeper 42.9 kilometres (26.7 mi) canal, which opened in 1968. The annual rent during this lease raised only once.

Finland obtained a second 50 year lease from Russia, starting in 2013, in 2010.[1] Maly Vysotsky was not included in the new lease. Negotiations in 2008 raised the annual rent from 290000 to €1.22 million, with revisions every 10 years. The new agreement went into effect on 17 February 2012.

Regulations pertaining to maritime rules and employment of canal staff fall under Finnish jurisdiction; in all other cases Russian laws apply. Passports are required at the international boundaries, but Russian visas are not required for just passing through the canal.


  1. "Russian-Finnish agreement on the lease of Saimaa Canal ratified". President of Russia. 20 Nov 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2019.

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