The Kiel Canal (German: Nord-Ostsee-Kanal, NOK), known as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal until 1948, is a 98-kilometre (61 mi) long canal in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The canal links the North Sea at Brunsbüttel to the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau. An average of 250 nautical miles (460 km) is saved by using the Kiel Canal instead of going around the Jutland Peninsula. This not only saves time but also avoids potentially dangerous storm-prone seas.
According to the canal's website, it is the busiest artificial waterway in the World; over 43,000 vessels passed through in 2007, excluding small craft. Besides its two sea entrances, the Kiel Canal is linked, at Oldenbüttel, to the navigable River Eider by the short Gieselau Canal.
There are detailed traffic rules for the canal. Each vessel in passage is classified in one of six traffic groups according to its dimensions. Larger ships are obliged to accept pilots and specialised canal helmsmen, in some cases even the assistance of a tugboat. Furthermore, there are regulations regarding the passing of oncoming ships. Larger ships may also be required to moor at the bollards provided at intervals along the canal to allow the passage of oncoming vessels. Special rules apply to pleasure craft.
While most large, modern cruise ships cannot pass through this canal due to clearance limits under bridges, MS Norwegian Dream has special funnels and masts that can be lowered for passage. Swan Hellenic's Minerva, Fred Olsen Cruises' ship Balmoral, Oceania Cruises' Regatta, and MS Prinsendam of Holland America Line are able to transit the canal. The German Navy’s sail training barque Gorch Fock was designed to allow lowering of the tops of her masts (stepping), specifically for the vessel to navigate Kiel Canal – otherwise the ship would be too tall for several bridges spanning the waterway.
Maximum length for ships passing the Kiel Canal is 235.50 metres (772.6 ft); with the maximum width of 32.50 metres (106.6 ft) these ships can have a draught of up to 7.00 metres (22.97 ft). Ships up to a length of 160.00 metres (524.93 ft) may have a draught up to 9.50 metres (31.2 ft). The bulker Ever Leader is considered to be the cargo ship that to date has come closest to the overall limits.
In popular culture :
The board game Diplomacy recognises the Kiel Canal by allowing fleets to enter the region of Kiel from the west and exit to the east (or vice versa), which is not allowed in most of the game's other two-coast regions, such as Spain. Crime writer Emma Lathen's 1997 novel, "A Shark Out of Water", revolves around the murder of a Polish official who was championing the improvement of the Kiel Canal.