Kiel Canal Shuts: Major European Disruption Expected

Spiegel Online International
Monday, March 11, 2013
Brunsbüttel Locks: Photo credit Kiel Canal Authority

The Kiel Canal, one of Europe's most vital shipping waterways, shut down after two neglected locks finally gave up the ghost.

It's the world's most heavily trafficked man-made shipping lane, but since Wednesday few ships have been seen on the 100-kilometer (62-mile) long Kiel Canal, which cuts through the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein to form a roughly 450-kilometer shortcut between the North and Baltic Seas, reports Spiegel Online International.

Although the canal is under the jurisdiction of the federal government, it has been the subject of financial disputes for years between Berlin and the state. Last year, the German government even reduced the money available for maintaining the canal from €60 million ($78 million) to just €11 million, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper informed on Friday.

The Kiel Canal is also of enormous importance to Hamburg, Europe's second-largest port behind Rotterdam. One out of three container ships that is processed in the city travels through the Kiel Canal as it continues on to the Baltic states and Russia.

Officials hope to reopen the canal to larger ships again in two weeks. In the meantime, large container ships, the heart of the local economy in Hamburg, will have to make an expensive, 450-kilometer detour through Skagerak, Denmark.

State politicians have slammed German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer for not taking action sooner.

Sourece Spiegel Online International

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