Corinth Canal: many holes in the water

By | May 17, 2023

In recent days it was written in the press about Egypt’s plan regarding the development of the Suez Canal through widening and deepening works with the width increasing by 40.0 m and the depth eventually becoming 24.0 m. . In this way, in addition to the safety of moving ships, Egypt’s income, which now amounts to 10 billion dollars a year, will increase.

Construction of the Suez Canal began in 1858 and was completed in 1869 when it was officially opened for navigation.

The Corinth Canal was considered Europe’s response to the construction of the Suez Canal. It also had technical and economic problems similar to those of Egypt. And although the importance of the Suez Canal has been enormous for world navigation and with the new interventions its participation is increasing, the importance of the Corinth Canal for our country has been great but it is less and less over the years due to the lack of adaptation. to the new demands of Navigation and therefore its future is very limited.

The new requirements impose the expansion of the Canal from 24.60 m, which is the current width at sea level, to at least 42.00 m and the depth of 8.00 m, which is theoretically today, at 11:00 – 12:00 pm

The intervention that is currently being carried out not only does not contemplate expansion and deepening, but also creates unbreakable and uneconomical obstacles to its implementation.

Section Geometry

  1. The planned width, at sea level, of the Canal to be built was 42.0 m. as established in the original TMX Law “On the Dredging of the Isthmus of Corinto” published in the Official Gazette 48/27 of November 1869 and especially in article 6.2.
  2. Along the way, the geometric elements of the Canal to be opened were modified, as they are finally described in the Decree published in the Official Gazette 80/1881, of September 8, 1881, becoming 22.0 m wide. at the bottom and 24.60m. on the surface of the sea. Therefore, it was built without taking into account the development of shipbuilding and the subsequent prospect of economic efficiency and increased maritime traffic.
  3. Previously, in 1852, the Cretan engineer Leonidas Lygounis had carried out studies for the opening of the Canal with a width of 54.0 m. Other studies predicted that the width of the Canal would open at 42.0 m.

fatal errors

  1. Nature itself and ancient human interventions had created the width of a large part of the length of the intervention to be 40.00 to 50.00 m, the pile could be moved easily and without cost from 10.00 to 12, 00 m towards the Peloponnese side, as clearly seen in the current photos, taking into account future enlargement whenever it occurs.
  2. With today’s operations, its development is excluded since the widening and deepening that will soon have to be done are not taken into account, on the contrary, they create almost insurmountable problems and excessive costs in future expansions. 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, an 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.
  3. In addition, the problem of slope smoothing and the creation by filling of a staggered cross section locally and not throughout the entire intervention area are addressed.
  4. The excessive use of reinforced concrete that the study imposes, mainly due to the limitations that have been set, transfers the problem of the stability of the slopes not to their elimination but to their relative treatment.
  5. Address the absorption of wave energy by the passage of ships in the two different projects that are being carried out simultaneously along the canal, namely:

a) Intervention projects on the slopes of the canal and construction of vertical reinforced concrete piles, 1.00 m in diameter and 15.00 m high, in the extension of the existing embankment wall in a length of L = 1030, 00 my

b) Protection – Restoration and Promotion of Old Diolkos and for the construction of a breakwater, defined by reinforced concrete caissons with holes arranged for the waves to enter and reduce their energy.

Two different perceptions in different projects than for absorption in the first project cause large uncertainties, which increase with the construction of a corresponding pile on the Sterea Hellas side. For the second project, the energy absorption method is expected to be successful.

Actions in the past to broaden and deepen

The expansion and deepening was a constant and timeless request of the local society, the technical world, the AEDIK technical service, the political direction of the Peloponnese Region under Mr. Petros Tatoulis, many of the Company’s Boards, the previous Superfund Board and many members of Parliament.

I briefly mention:

  1. At the ceremony for the 120 years of operation of the canal, in front of the monument of the Greek-Hungarian cooperation on the old bridge of the Isthmus of Corinth (26.9.2013), the reports of the Regional Governor of the Peloponnese Mr. Tatoulis and the President of AEDIK Mr. Konstantinos Barkagiannis were specific and clear. Both stated that the Canal must be included in the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and that its immediate deepening and expansion is required for the survival of the Canal. (Related: patrisnews September 29, 2013, Self-government 9.29.2013).
  2. The Corinth Canal Strategic and Operational Plan 2013-2016 submitted to the Ministry of Finance in September 2012 describes the benefits of the expansion to 44.0 m. and dredging of the Canal. (Regarding: Kathimerini, Ilias Bellos on 2/28/2018).
  3. The Superfund master plan includes the expansion, deepening and modernization of the Canal (Related: newsmoney, Argyris Papastathis, March 18, 2018).
  4. Question from Member of Parliament G. Michalakis to Finance and Development Ministers Mr. Stournaras and Mr. Hatzidakis respectively, mentioning the benefits of the 25.0m expansion. and dredged. (About,, Monday March 11, 2013).
  5. Interviews related to Mr. Constantinos Barkagiannis, President and CEO of AEDIK on the need for the expansion and deepening project.
  6. Relevant interviews by Mr. Petros Tatoulis in local media about the inclusion of the Canal in the Trans-European Transport Network, TEN-T, and its expansion and deepening.
  7. Frequent complaints from citizens about the need to definitively solve the problem of the Canal with the necessary widening and deepening works and not with “improvisations”.
  8. Question requesting a written response to the European Commission (Commission) on the Corinth Canal Upgrade by Ms Maria Spyrakis MEP on 9 March 2018. The response also mentions how the funding will be secured, with money from the European Union, for the expansion and deepening of the Canal after its inclusion in the Trans-European Transport Networks, TEN-T, which can be done in 2023.
  9. Shortly before the start of World War II, it was planned to widen the Canal to 45.0 m. and deepening to 12.0m. with a budget of 390,000,000 drachmas which he had secured. The entire project was aborted due to the war (Ta NEA official, 11/4/1972).
  10. The corresponding planning was to be implemented in 1970 following the proposal of the Professor of Harbor Works and President of Diorygos, Mr. Demosthenes Pippa. Finally, due to a change in the Directorate, it was not implemented (official Ta NEA, 4/11/1972).

Since its construction, the Canal, due to the applied geometry, incorrect technical and economic evaluation, has been of limited interest, with little economic profitability and limited maritime traffic compared to the enormous construction costs. And here comes the current Government, instead of solving the problem in an integral way, with a fatal error and a pharaonic intervention, it imposes a rigid and permanent framework to prevent the widening and deepening and thus blocks the only path for the development of the Canal and their adaptations to new developments.

Corinth Canal water wells (3)

Note: The photos were taken from Mr. Michalis Papamanolakis’s posts on his YouTube channel, which you can view at the link:

Dr. Apostolos E. Papafotiou
EMP Civil Engineer
Economist EKPA

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