Corinth Canal to finally reopen to shipping in July

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The Corinth Canal in southern Greece, that had been closed to traffic since February 2021, after a series of landslides made it unnavigable, will reopen for ships in July, the country’s sovereign wealth fund HCAP said on Wednesday.

In a statement on work progress on the Canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth in the Ionian Sea with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea, the Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations said that improvements instituted by managers Corinth Canal SA in July will include a “new dynamic portal and e-commerce services, high-quality personalized services, online notification (arrival/transit), and online ticketing.”

A new tugboat (“Vergina”) will be able to expand the existing fleet’s services (of towing during transit through the canal) to towing and assistance with safe handling during docking of merchant vessels at the ports of Corinth, Kiato, Thisvi, Kalamaki and Sousaki, all in the greater Corinth Canal region. Fencing along the canal and construction of a 3.5km paved foothpath will be initiated within 2022, with the support of the Peloponnese Region.

“These projects will change the face of the region, further enhancing it aesthetically and giving visitors safe access to the canal,” HCAP said.

In the fall, when ship traffic is limited, the Canal will shut down for a few months for the second phase of the project, completing works to mitigate landslides and stabilise the banks. The entire project also includes dredging to remove debris from landslides, a pile wall to protect the foot of the canal’s banks, and construction of all surface water regulation and run-off projects.

According to data provided by HCAP (2019), 11,417 vessels transited the Corinth Canal, an increase of 7.5%, with 55% of transits related to tourism, “a fact that highlights the importance and potential of the project for the wider region following the repair works.”

The channel is used by all kinds of vessels, from small tourist craft to large merchant vessels, cruise ships and tankers. For cruise ships in particular, sailing through the Canal is one of the great travel experiences. In addition, the passage serves as the shortest and safest sea route for vessels coming from Ionian, Adriatic and Southern Italian ports, as well as for ships passing through the Strait of Messina and heading to ports in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea (and vice versa).

Travelling from Patras to Piraeus via the Canal takes a vessel 100 nautical miles, but with the Canal shut, a vessel is obliged to sail around the Peloponnese and cover 295 nautical miles.