Monday, January 2, 2017

Canal Dimensions

I can't remember how the different canals compare in size to each other, so I'm pulling together the facts in one place.

Original (1914) Panama Canal


Locks are 1000' x 110' x 42' and can accommodate Panamax Ships of 965' x 106' x 39.5' and have a maximum container cargo of 4400 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). 52 million gallons are lost to the sea per transit. [Panama Canal Museum] Other sources claim 5000 TEUs.

New ($5 billion 2016) Channel and Locks in Panama Canal


Locks are 1400' x 180' x 60' and can accommodate Post Panamax Ships of 1200' x 160' x 50' and have a max cargo of 12600 TEUs. 60% of the water is recycled so less is lost to the sea than the old locks. [Panama Canal Museum] Other sources claim 14000 TEUs.

200' is lost in the length because the ships are moved through with tugs rather than the "mules" used along the side of the old locks.

St. Lawrence River


A "canaller" was 250' x 48' x 15.5' so that they could use the canals that were built next to rapids on the St. Lawrence River when going upstream. When they were going downstream, they would chute the rapids during the day! "Chuting the dangerous rapids became a none issue along with the old canals and many viable communities along the river when these areas were flooded and lost forever when the St Lawrence Seaway was opened in 1959." At one time, there were 180 canallers. [CarlzBoats]

St. Lawrence Seaway, 1959


Vessel maximum: 740' x 78' x 26.5'  with a limit above the water of 116.5'. [Seaway Facts]  No wonder I read that ships transload to bigger salt water ships at Montreal because that vessel size is tiny even by Panamax standards. (G3 Marquis is 226 (741.47 ft) long [Great Lakes Business])
(Update: 740' x 78' are the current dimensions. The locks are only 2 feet wider. The original dimensions were 730'x75'. When the Louis R. Desmarais was built in 1977, the original dimensions were still in effect. She was enlarged in 2000.)

Welland Canal

The current (fourth) canal was completed in 1932 at 766' x 80' x 25'. (Actually, dredging continued to 1935 to achieve the 25' draft everywhere.) In 1973 a bypass canal was built to accommodate the Seaway standard of 27'. A fifth canal has been designed that would have a super lock instead of a "stairstep" of seven locks at the Niagara Escarpment. [Wikipedia] The actual draft varies depending on water conditions and the sophistication of draft measuring equipment. In 2018, the season started at 26'3" but was expected to go to 26'6". Precision draft measuring equipment allows 7cm more. [GreatLakesSeaway]      A nice summary of all four canals
The Ship Canal is now 26.8 miles long and has a width in the canal reaches of 310 feet at water level and 200 feet at the bottom of the prism, with the exception of the new Welland Channel which has a width of 350 feet and a depth of 30 feet. Seven lift locks and one guard lock have replaced the 40 locks of the First Canal; each lift lock being 859 feet in length between centers of gate paintles, 80 feet in width and having 30 feet of water over the sills. Each of the seven lift locks has a lift of about 46-1/2 feet. [WellandLibrary]

Soo Canal

  • MacArthur Lock, 1943: 800' x 80' x 29.5'; this can handle salties, but not Lakers (Video from David Kaye)
  • Poe Lock, 1896: 800' x 100'
  • Poe Lock Rebuilt, 1968: 1200' x 110' x 32', this is the one the lakers must use. That length and width can also handle a 15-barge tow. But I suspect barges can't risk being on a Great Lake if a storm hits.
  • Davis lock, 1914: 1350' x 80' x 23.1'; light freighters, tour boats, and small craft when traffic warrants
  • Sabin Lock, 1919: same as Davis but it has been "mothballed."
Canada has a small lock that is used for tour and recreational boats.

Since 1986, the Davis and Sabin Locks are supposed to be replaced by one lock that is big enough to handle lakers. They broke ground on June 30, 2009. But it hasn't been funded. See Soo Locks for updates concerning the replacement plan.

Suez Canal. 19th Century and 2015


The canal has no locks so there is effectively no length limitation. Suezmax as of 2009 allows a beam of 164' and a depth of 66'. The depth of the canal has been deepened a few times. "A typical Suezmax vessel would be 275 m (900 ft) in length, 48 m (157 ft) in width, and 16.2 m (53 ft) in draught corresponding to about 150,000 DWT." [suezmax]

Since a lot of Eastern US ports need to be deepened to handle Post Panamax ships, they would not be able to handle Suezmax. (They might be able to handle bigger tankers by mooring them offshore and running a pipeline out to them.) But the one-way usage of a 120-mile canal has serious throughput issues. So in 2015 a $4 billion dollar parallel lane was finished to accommodate two-way traffic on much of its length. I assume that the second lane will also provide a contingency if a disaster of some sort would block one of the lanes.

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