In 2016, engineers finished the 10-year, $5.4 billion project to widen the Panama Canal so that today's giant containerships can avoid the hazardous voyage around the tip of South America. Half a world away, transportation leaders in Norway are now laying plans for a similar project, with one crucial difference—instead of traversing a tropical peninsula, the Norwegian canal will allow cargo ships to sail underneath a snow-capped mountain.
The Stad Ship Tunnel will be blasted through just over a mile of solid rock in the Stad Peninsula, near the city of Selje, according to the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA). As for why anyone would want to blast through a mountain, NCA says the aim of this project is to allow ships to navigate more safely through Stad. With no outlying islands to protect it, the Stad Peninsula is one of the most exposed and dangerous areas on Norway's western coast. The proposed tunnel would allow both passenger and freight vessels to avoid a trip through the dangerous waters.
At an estimated cost of $270 million, the tunnel will be the world's first full-scale ship tunnel of this size, NCA says. Over a construction period of three to four years, workers will drill a tube 40 yards wide by 54 yards tall, large enough to accommodate ships the size of the coastal steamers used by Hurtigruten, a Norwegian cruise, ferry, and cargo operator. The Norwegian Parliament has already earmarked $120 million for the project, and construction could begin as early as 2018, planners say.