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Kiel Canal bridges thwart passage of tall Baltic ships

  01.09.2008    

Photo: flickrPhysical limitations of the Kiel Canal are again coming under the spotlight, following the recent deployment of French shipping group CMA CGM's 1,730-TEU ship on a new Baltic feeder loop, according to the Shipping Gazette. 
The CMA CGM Volga, one of three Polish-built ice strengthened ships, first built for Fesco, is too tall to fit under the Canal's 10 bridges - this despite the German transport ministry's May announcement to spend EUR280 million (US$411.34 million) fixing the problem.
The extension will increase the maximum vessel size in the canal to 280 metres in length and 33 metres in beam, opposed to the current 235 metres by 32.5 metres.
But a report by AXS-Alphaliner News noted that the new maximum is a "theoretical figure" since, it claims, almost all ships of such dimensions will exceed the of 40 metre air draft limit imposed by the bridges.
It said fully laden ships draw deeper than the canal's 9.5 metres; also permissible draft decreases as vessel beams widen.
Few feeder vessels going to or from the Baltic use the canal and go around Denmark on the more costly Belts (Skaw).
One of the largest containerships to transit the canal fully loaded is the Katharina, an unusual twin-engined one-off design of 1,712 TEU with low draft, and thus a low deadweight. The other big containership to transit the Kiel Canal is Wappen Reederei's 1,600-TEU, open-top Meyerwerft-built with a comparatively low draft.


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