A ship canal is a canal especially intended to accommodate ships used on the oceans, seas or lakes to which it is connected, as opposed to a barge canal intended to carry barges and other vessels specifically designed for river and/or canal navigation. Because of the constraints of accommodating vessels capable of navigating large bodies of open water, a ship canal typically offers deeper water and higher bridge clearances than a barge canal of similar vessel length and width constraints.
Ship canals may be specially constructed from the start to accommodate ships, or less frequently they may be enlarged barge canals, or canalized or channelized rivers. There are no specific minimum dimensions for ship canals, with the size being largely dictated by the size of ships in use nearby at the time of construction or enlargement.
Ship canals may be constructed for a number of reasons, including:
- To create a shortcut and avoid lengthy detours.
- To create a navigable shipping link between two land-locked seas or lakes.
- To provide inland cities with a direct shipping link to the sea.
- To provide an economical alternative to other options.
One of the first canals built was the Grand Canal of China, which was developed over a long period starting in the 5th century BCE.
In the USA, the canal that brought about an age of canal building was the Erie Canal. It was a long-sought-after canal and connected the Great Lakes to the Hudson River. This canal initiated a half-century long boom of canal building and brought about many new features that allowed canals to be used in different areas previously inaccesible to canals. These features include locks, which allow a ship to move between different altitudes, and puddling, which waterproofed the canal.
Important ship canals
|White Sea – Baltic Canal||227 km (141 mi)||3.5 m (11 ft)||135 m × 14.3 m × 3.5 m||
|Rhine-Main-Danube Canal||171 km (106 mi)||4 m (13 ft)||190 m x 11.45 m x 4 m|
|Suez Canal||193.30 km (120.11 mi)||No locks, but 24 m (79 ft) deep.||205 m (673 ft) wide|
|Volga-Don Canal||101 km (63 mi)||3.5 m (11 ft)||140 m x 16.7 m x 3.5 m|
|Kiel Canal||98 km (61 mi)||14 m (46 ft)||310 m x 42 m x 14 m|
|Houston Ship Channel||80 km (50 mi)||14 m (46 ft)||161 m (528 ft) wide|
|Panama Canal||77 km (48 mi)||25.9 m (85 ft)||Original locks:|
320 m x 33.53 m x 12.56 m
Third set of locks:
426.72 m x 54.86 m x 18.29 m
|Danube-Black Sea Canal||64.4 km (40.0 mi)||5.5 m (18 ft)||138 m x 16.8 m x 5.5 m|
|Manchester Ship Canal||58 km (36 mi)||8.78 m (28.8 ft)||170.68 m x 21.94 m x 8.78 m|
|Welland Canal||43.4 km (27.0 mi)||8.2 m (27 ft)||225.5 m x 23.8 m x 8.2 m|
|Saint Lawrence Seaway||600 km (370 mi)||8.2 m (27 ft)||225.5 m x 23.8 m x 8.2 m|
The standard used in the European Union for classifying the navigability of inland waterways is the European Agreement on Main Inland Waterways of International Importance (AGN) of 1996, adopted by The Inland Transport Committee of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), which defines the following classes:
- "History of canals in Great Britain". www.canalmuseum.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
- "Canals 1750 to 1900 - History Learning Site". History Learning Site. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
- ushistory.org. "The Canal Era [ushistory.org]". www.ushistory.org. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
- "European Agreement on the main Inland Waterways of international importance (AGN)" (PDF). 2072, I-35939. United Nations: 343. Retrieved 2008-11-30. Cite journal requires
- previous ref apparently broken (May 2016): alternative reference to document with the same name containing similar tabular information at unece.org
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