Iconic piece of Greek navigation set to open in July 2022
The Corinth Canal closure at the beginning of 2021 after extensive landslides was another unexpected headache after our inaugural season with our Corinth Canal flotilla in the middle of the Pandemic. Thankfully, the flotilla has proved popular since the area is a true delight.
Initially, the closure was envisaged to be temporary and it was hoped that the canal would open in time for the 2021 summer season. However, repeated landslides and the subsequent investigations by the engineers quickly established that the issue was far more serious than originally thought and a more detailed study was commissioned so as to ensure that repair works would yield a permanent solution. The landslides dumped some 20,000 cubic metres of material into the water, blocking the canal. The study took many months, with hundreds of investigative probes and boreholes, followed by further analysis before an action plan and budget could be finalised. The authorities then had to find the money (not an easy task in Greece in 2022) and award the contract to the right contractor.
The conclusion was that the works are being carried out in phases so as to enable re-opening of the canal for the tourist season. Works are now on track to open in July and close again at the end of October so that round two of the reconstruction works can proceed over the winter.
Contrary to what many assume, the Corinth canal is a relatively modern one (in Greek terms) having been completed in 1893. The idea was first conceived in 700 BC by the Ancient Greeks, so arguably the most delayed public works project ever! The reality is that the project was abandoned several times due to the high cost and technical difficulties (nothing like HS2 at all) since cutting through over 6km of solid limestone was no easy task in 700 BC. A subsequent attempt during Roman times, had 6000 slaves with shovels managing just 0.8 km in over a year, so the project was yet again abandoned.
The ancient solution was an overland stone road over which ships were hauled on logs. It was called the ‘Diolkos’ and sections of it can still be seen today next to the canal (Perhaps this is a solution we should have considered for the flotilla ……). The eventual solution to build the canal was a public-private partnership with a French company in the 1880s which….you guessed it …..went bust. Finally, a Greek company financed by the longsuffering Greek taxpayer (yes, he or she does exist…), managed to finish the project which opened on 25th July 1893.
After all that, modern shipping is now too big to use the canal which is only 21.4 metres wide, but it is still important for smaller and mid-sized cruise ships, coasters and of course yachts, with around 12,000 vessels transiting the canal in a normal year.
The 6.4 kilometre canal with its spectacular limestone cliffs will once again be a welcome highlight from July for our Saronic Gulf flotilla, where guests will have the option of transiting the canal and exploring the Gulf of Corinth towards the end of the week on our Salamis route which operates every second week. Guests on one-week holidays on the southbound Poros route will find the canal probably too far during their free sailing time, but we will be offering an optional boat trip through the canal for those that are interested.
If you have not yet booked your summer holiday our Saronic Gulf & Corinth Canal flotilla is an excellent choice with great sailing, lots to see and do, plus new for 2022, our kids club during school holidays.