From: Reuters
Published December 17, 2007 10:11 AM

Norway plans world's first ship tunnel

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway has drawn up plans to build the world's first shipping tunnel which would save time and money for vessels passing through a coastal area known for its dangerous seas.

Strong winds, high waves and powerful currents in the area of Stad on the southwest coast of Norway cause long delays while ships wait for calmer conditions.

A recent report from the Norwegian Coastal Administration recommended building the 1,700-metre (5,577 feet) tunnel and concluded that it would be cost effective.

The tunnel, estimated to cost around $310 million and take five years to build, would cut through a peninsula, saving ships the risky journey around the coastline.

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The idea to build a shipping passage was first put forward long ago. Some say the first sketch was made in 1870, others say plans started around 1920 with the idea of building a canal through the peninsula.

But in the 1980s, the concept gained momentum and the government got involvement.

"What's new is that we have managed to calculate the costs of waiting," coastal director Kirsti Slotsvik told Reuters. She said the tunnel could also prevent loss of life.

Reduced stress for sailors, heightened quality of shipped products from reduced transport time and growth of tourism also weigh in favor of the tunnel, officials said.

The Coastal Administration has recommended a design that would provide flexibility for future growth in ship sizes.

The plan has been sent to the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal affairs, which could present it to parliament in 2009 at the earliest, an official said.

(Reporting by Aasa Christine Stoltz; editing by Keith Weir)

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