Over the past few days, it has been written in the press about Egypt’s plan for the development of the Suez Canal through widening and deepening works, the width increasing by 40.0 m and the depth reaching finally 24.0 m. In this way, in addition to the safety of moving ships, Egypt’s income, which now amounts to $10 billion a year, will increase.
Construction of the Suez Canal began in 1858 and was completed in 1869 when it was officially opened to navigation.
The Corinth Canal was considered Europe’s answer to the construction of the Suez Canal. It too had technical and economic problems similar to those of Egypt. And while the importance of the Suez Canal has been huge for global shipping and with the new interventions it is increasing its participation, the importance of the Corinth Canal for our country has been great but is getting smaller and smaller in the over the years due to the lack of adaptation to the new requirements of Navigation and therefore its future is very limited.
The new requirements impose the widening of the Canal from 24.60 m, which is the width today at sea level, to at least 42.00 m and the depth to 8.00 m, which is theoretically today today, 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
The intervention that is carried out nowadays not only does not provide for broadening and deepening, but also creates unshakeable and uneconomic obstacles for its implementation.
- The planned width, at sea level, of the canal to be constructed was 42.0 m. as stated in the original TMX Law “On the Dredging of the Isthmus of Corinth” published in the Official Gazette 48/27 November 1869 and in particular in Article 6.2.
- Along the way, the geometric elements of the channel to be opened were modified, as finally described in the decree published in the Official Gazette 80/1881 of September 8, 1881, the width increasing to 22.0 m. at the bottom and 24.60m. on the surface of the sea. Thus, it was built without taking into account the development of shipbuilding and the additional prospect of economic efficiency and increased maritime traffic.
- Earlier in 1852 there had been studies by the Cretan engineer Leonidas Lygounis for the opening of the canal with a width of 54.0 m. Other studies predicted the width of the channel to open at 42.0 m.
- Nature itself and ancient human interventions had created the width of a large part of the length of the intervention at 40.00 – 50.00 m. The pile could easily and without cost be moved 10.00 to 12.00 m to the Peloponnese side, as clearly seen in the current photos, taking into account future expansion whenever it occurs.
- With today’s operations, its development is excluded since the widening and deepening, which will soon have to be done, are not taken into account, on the contrary, they create almost insurmountable problems and excessive costs in the future expansion. An insurmountable obstacle is the construction of the (fortification) wall at the foot of the slope with dimensions of 17.0 x 1.0 x 1,030.0 m of reinforced concrete and a volume of almost 18,000 m2, indicative cost of €10,000,000. After its construction, it will be technically and economically impossible to demolish it to widen and deepen the Canal.
- In addition, the problem of smoothing the slopes and creating a staggered section locally and not over the entire length of the intervention area by backfilling is addressed.
- The excessive use of reinforced concrete imposed by the study, mainly due to the limitations that have been posed, postpones the problem of the stability of the slopes not to its elimination but to its relative treatment.
- Address the absorption of wave energy due to the passage of ships in the two different projects carried out simultaneously along the canal, namely:
a) Intervention projects on the slopes of the canal and construction of vertical piles in reinforced concrete, 1.00 m in diameter and 15.00 m in height, in the extension of the existing embankment wall over a length of L = 1030 .00m and
b) Protection – Restoration and enhancement of the ancient Diolkos and through the construction of a breakwater, defined by reinforced concrete caissons with holes arranged so that the waves penetrate and reduce its energy.
Two different perceptions in different projects which for the absorption in the first project cause great uncertainties, which increase with the construction of a corresponding piling on the side of Sterea Hellas. For the second project, the energy absorption method should be successful.
Actions in the past to broaden and deepen
Broadening and deepening has been a constant and timeless demand from local society, from the technical world, from the technical department of AEDIK, from the political leadership of the Peloponnese region under the direction of Mr. Petros Tatoulis, from many company boards, the previous Superfund board and many MPs.
In short, I mention:
- During the ceremony of 120 years of operation of the canal, in front of the monument of Greek-Hungarian cooperation on the old bridge of the Isthmus of Corinth (26.9.2013), the reports of the regional governor of Peloponnese Mr. Tatoulis and the President of AEDIK, Mr. Konstantinos Barkagiannis, were precise and clear. Both said that the canal must be included in the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) and that an immediate deepening and widening of it is necessary for the survival of the canal. (Related: patrisnews 29 September 2013, Autonomy 29.9.2013).
- The Corinth Canal Strategic and Operational Plan 2013-2016 submitted to the Ministry of Finance in September 2012 outlines the benefits of widening to 44.0 m. and the dredging of the Canal. (Regarding: Kathimerini, Ilias Bellos on 28.2.2018).
- The Superfund master plan includes the widening, deepening and modernization of the canal (Related: newsmoney, Argyris Papastathis, March 18, 2018).
- Question from MP G. Michalakis to the Ministers of Finance and Development, respectively Mr. Stournaras and Mr. Hatzidakis, in which the advantages of the 25.0 m widening are mentioned. and dredging. (By the way, naftemporiki.gr, Monday, March 11, 2013).
- Related interviews of Mr. Constantinos Barkagiannis, President and CEO of AEDIK on the necessity of the enlargement and deepening project.
- Relevant interviews of Mr. Petros Tatoulis in the local media on the inclusion of the Canal in the Trans-European Transport Network, TEN-T, and its widening and deepening.
- Frequent reports from citizens about the need to definitively solve the problem of the Canal with the necessary works of widening and deepening and not with “tinkering”.
- Question asking for a written response to the European Commission (Commission) on the modernization of the Corinth Canal by MEP Ms. Maria Spyrakis on March 9, 2018. The response also mentions how funding will be secured, with money from the European Union, for the widening and deepening of the canal after its inclusion in the trans-European transmission networks, TEN-T, which can be done in 2023.
- Shortly before the start of the Second World War, it was planned to widen the canal to 45.0 m. and deepening to 12.0 m. with a budget of 390,000,000 drachmas which had been secured. The whole project was abandoned due to the war (Ta NEA official, 11/4/1972).
- A corresponding planning was to be implemented in 1970 following the proposal of the Professor of Port Works and President of Diorygos, Mr. Demosthenes Pippa. In the end, due to a change in management, it was not implemented (Ta NEA official, 11/4/1972).
Since its construction, the canal, due to the geometry applied, an erroneous technical and economic evaluation, has had a limited interest, with little economic return and limited maritime traffic compared to the enormous construction costs. And now the current Government, instead of solving the problem in a holistic way, with a fatal error and a pharaonic intervention, it imposes a rigid and permanent framework to prevent the enlargement and the deepening and thus blocks the only way to direction unique for the development of the Canal and its adaptations to new developments.
Note: Photos were taken from Mr. Michalis Papamanolakis’ posts on his YouTube channel, which you can watch at the link: https://www.youtube.com/@akis1958.
Dr. Apostolos E. Papafotiou
EMP civil engineer
The EKPA Economist