Snøhetta

Norway’s Stad peninsula is a notoriously difficult place for ships to pass through. As many as 100 days a year of hurricane weather create huge, choppy waves that give ships a very hard time sailing the coastline, delaying schedules and putting crews at risk. The Norwegian government’s solution? Build a tunnel instead, the world’s first for ships.

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New Atlas reports that architecture and design firm Snøhetta will blast a tunnel through a 984 foot tall hill in the peninsula. A tunnel, the Norwegian government hopes, will help make the route safer.

A tunnel, the Norwegian government hopes, will help make the route safer. Proposed to be more than a mile long, 121 feet tall and 87 feet wide, the tunnel will not make make shipping routes faster. Instead, travel will be safer because ships will avoid the choppy waters down the peninsula’s coastline.

Snøhetta

Stad Ship Tunnel Project Manager Terje Andreassen told New Atlas that, from a maritime point of view, the tunnel could be seen as a canal, but with a “roof.” During any given day, an average of 19 ships will pass the tunnel; it will have the capacity to host up to 100 ships per day. The traffic will be one-way and alternate every hour. Slot times will be allotted to each vessel and traffic will be controlled by a vessel center.

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Upon completion, the tunnel is expected to have the biggest impact on the fishing industry and provide the option of speed ferries between certain towns in the peninsula.

As for how the tunnel will be constructed, Andreassen explains below:

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First we will drill horizontally and use explosives to take out the roof part of the tunnel. Then all bolts and anchors to secure the roof rock before applying shotcrete. The rest of the tunnel will be done in the same way as in open mining. Vertical drilling and blasting with explosives down to the level of 12 m (42 ft) below the sea level.

When asked what will make this project different from building a road tunnel, Andreassen pointed to the height of the proposed ship tunnel:

There is 50 m (164 ft) from bottom to the roof, so all secure works and shotcrete must be done in several levels. The tunnel will be made dry down to the bottom. We solve this by leaving some rock unblasted in each end of the tunnel to prevent water flowing in.

To be sure, this will not be the first time a tunnel has been built through something like a hill or a mountain. The Gotthard Base Tunnel, a railway tunnel that goes through the Alps in Switzerland, was opened last summer.

At more than 35 miles long, it is considered the longest tunnel in the world. According to the BBC, it took two decades to build. The Seikan rail tunnel, which was opened in Japan in 1988, comes in second at 33 miles.

Europe, China, Spain and Korea also have tunnels that handle rail and car traffic, according to the BBC. But nowhere in the world is there a tunnel that handles ship traffic. The Norwegian government has allocated $272 million for the project and around 80 people will work on over a three- or four-year period.

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So this looks like a done deal. But, with a project as trailblazing as this, don’t be surprised if it takes longer than four years to complete.