Norway is home to more than 1,100 road tunnels, fit for all sorts of vehicles that travel on the ground. These tunnels go through cities and even underwater, allowing people to travel through more direct routes across the region’s troublesome terrain. A few years back, road tunnels under the sea were thought revolutionary, today, the spotlight has shifted to tunnels for ships.
The region, is full of fjords - long, narrow, deep inlets of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway and Iceland, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley. A particularly problematic area in the Norwegian region is the Stad peninsula that separates the Norwegian Sea to the north and the North Sea to the south.
Typically, vessels need to weave in and out of these fjords and go around the entire Norwegian coastline to even cross relatively short distances – a task that is not only highly inefficient but also proves dangerous. Rough waters on the open ocean occasionally strand boats in an inlet’s relatively placid waters and 33 seamen have been reported to have died during these voyages in the past few decades.
The Stad ship tunnel has been in talks for quite a few years now, but has finally been converted into a project that is ready to be financed. The planned 1,700-meter-long tunnel with 36 meters width and 49 meters height, which is expected to open in 2023 at an estimated cost of $314 million, would be able to accommodate cruise and freight ships weighing up to 16,000 tons.
Construction will begin on opposite ends of the mountain, where workers will continue to drill the tunnel inwards until they meet in the middle. The tunnel is being designed keeping environmental aspect in mind, so as not to lay ruin to the existing landscape in the process.
The $314 million project has been criticized by many saying that it’s an unnecessarily expensive project that will provide next to no payoff. The travel time will only decrease marginally, the only solid advantage being provided in cases of bad weather conditions. However, considering the regular bad weather experienced in the particular region in question, the advantage is precisely the one required.
Norway’s bold step towards this infrastructural innovation is revolutionary, to say the least if it comes to fruition. So for now, we’re to wait and see what becomes of the massively hyped world’s first ship tunnel in the future.