Kiel Canal
The Kiel Canal known as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal until 1948, is a 98 kilometres (60.9 mi) long canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

 in the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

States of Germany
Germany is made up of sixteen which are partly sovereign constituent states of the Federal Republic of Germany. Land literally translates as "country", and constitutionally speaking, they are constituent countries...

 of Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost of the sixteen states of Germany, comprising most of the historical duchy of Holstein and the southern part of the former Duchy of Schleswig...


The canal links the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 at Brunsbüttel
Brunsbüttel is a town in the district of Dithmarschen, in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany that lies on the mouth of the Elbe river, near the North Sea. It is the location of the western entrance to the Kiel Canal, the eastern entrance being located at Kiel-Holtenau...

 to the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 at Kiel-Holtenau
Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 238,049 .Kiel is approximately north of Hamburg. Due to its geographic location in the north of Germany, the southeast of the Jutland peninsula, and the southwestern shore of the...

. An average of 250 NM is saved by using the Kiel Canal instead of going around the Jutland
Jutland , historically also called Cimbria, is the name of the peninsula that juts out in Northern Europe toward the rest of Scandinavia, forming the mainland part of Denmark. It has the North Sea to its west, Kattegat and Skagerrak to its north, the Baltic Sea to its east, and the Danish–German...

 Peninsula. This not only saves time but also avoids potentially dangerous storm-prone seas. According to the canal's website, it is the most heavily used artificial seaway 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
Oldenbüttel is a municipality in the district of Rendsburg-Eckernförde, in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany....

, to the navigable River Eider by the short Gieselau Canal
Gieselau Canal
The Gieselau Canal, or Gieselaukanal in German, is a canal in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. It is located close to Oldenbüttel and links the Kiel Canal with the River Eider....



The first connection between the North and Baltic Seas was constructed while the area was ruled by Denmark-Norway. It was called the Eider Canal, which used stretches of the Eider River
Eider River
The Eider is the longest river of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The river starts near Bordesholm and reaches the southwestern outskirts of Kiel on the shores of the Baltic Sea, but flows to the west, ending in the North Sea...

 for the link between the two seas. The Eiderkanal was completed during the reign of Christian VII of Denmark
Christian VII of Denmark
Christian VII was King of Denmark and Norway and Duke of Schleswig and Holstein from 1766 until his death. He was the son of Danish King Frederick V and his first consort Louisa, daughter of King George II of Great Britain....

 in 1784 and was a 43 kilometres (26.7 mi) part of a 175 kilometres (108.7 mi) long waterway from Kiel to the Eider River
Eider River
The Eider is the longest river of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The river starts near Bordesholm and reaches the southwestern outskirts of Kiel on the shores of the Baltic Sea, but flows to the west, ending in the North Sea...

's mouth at Tönning
Tönning is a town in the district of Nordfriesland in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. During the Great Northern War, Tönning was besieged twice.-Geography:...

 on the west coast. It was only 29 metres (95.1 ft) wide with a depth of three metres (ten feet), which limited the vessels that could use the canal to 300 tonnes displacement
Displacement (fluid)
In fluid mechanics, displacement occurs when an object is immersed in a fluid, pushing it out of the way and taking its place. The volume of the fluid displaced can then be measured, as in the illustration, and from this the volume of the immersed object can be deduced .An object that sinks...


During the 19th century, after Schleswig-Holstein had come under the government of Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 (from 1871 the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

) following the Second Schleswig War in 1864, a combination of naval interests — the German navy
Kaiserliche Marine
The Imperial German Navy was the German Navy created at the time of the formation of the German Empire. It existed between 1871 and 1919, growing out of the small Prussian Navy and Norddeutsche Bundesmarine, which primarily had the mission of coastal defense. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded...

 wanted to link its bases in the Baltic and the North Sea without the need to sail around Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 — and commercial pressure encouraged the development of a new canal.

In June 1887, construction works started at Holtenau, near Kiel. The canal took over 9,000 workers eight years to build. On June 20, 1895, the canal was officially opened by Kaiser
Kaiser is the German title meaning "Emperor", with Kaiserin being the female equivalent, "Empress". Like the Russian Czar it is directly derived from the Latin Emperors' title of Caesar, which in turn is derived from the personal name of a branch of the gens Julia, to which Gaius Julius Caesar,...

 Wilhelm II
William II, German Emperor
Wilhelm II was the last German Emperor and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918. He was a grandson of the British Queen Victoria and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe...

 for transiting from Brunsbüttel
Brunsbüttel is a town in the district of Dithmarschen, in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany that lies on the mouth of the Elbe river, near the North Sea. It is the location of the western entrance to the Kiel Canal, the eastern entrance being located at Kiel-Holtenau...

 to Holtenau. The next day, a ceremony was held in Holtenau where Wilhelm II named it the Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal (after Kaiser
Kaiser is the German title meaning "Emperor", with Kaiserin being the female equivalent, "Empress". Like the Russian Czar it is directly derived from the Latin Emperors' title of Caesar, which in turn is derived from the personal name of a branch of the gens Julia, to which Gaius Julius Caesar,...

 Wilhelm I
William I, German Emperor
William I, also known as Wilhelm I , of the House of Hohenzollern was the King of Prussia and the first German Emperor .Under the leadership of William and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the...

), and laid the final stone. The opening of the canal was filmed by British director Birt Acres
Birt Acres
Birt Acres was a photographer and film pioneer.Born in Richmond, Virginia to English parents, he invented the first British 35 mm moving picture camera, the first daylight loading home movie camera and projector, Birtac, was the first travelling newsreel reporter in international film history and...

 and surviving footage
Opening of the Kiel Canal
Opening of the Kiel Canal is an 1895 British short black-and-white silent documentary news film directed and produced by Birt Acres...

 of this early film is preserved in the Science Museum
Science Museum (London)
The Science Museum is one of the three major museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is part of the National Museum of Science and Industry. The museum is a major London tourist attraction....

 in London.

In order to meet the increasing traffic and the demands of the Imperial German Navy, between 1907 and 1914 the canal width was increased. The widening of the canal allowed the passage of a Dreadnought
The dreadnought was the predominant type of 20th-century battleship. The first of the kind, the Royal Navy's had such an impact when launched in 1906 that similar battleships built after her were referred to as "dreadnoughts", and earlier battleships became known as pre-dreadnoughts...

-sized battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

. This meant that these battleships could travel from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea without having to go around Denmark. The enlargement projects were completed by the installation of two larger canal locks in Brunsbüttel and Holtenau.

After World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 internationalised the canal while leaving it under German administration. The government under Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 repudiated its international status in 1936. After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 the canal was reopened to all traffic.


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
A tugboat is a boat that maneuvers vessels by pushing or towing them. Tugs move vessels that either should not move themselves, such as ships in a crowded harbor or a narrow canal,or those that cannot move by themselves, such as barges, disabled ships, or oil platforms. Tugboats are powerful for...

. Furthermore, there are regulations regarding the passing of oncoming ships. Larger ship 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 ship
Cruise ship
A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way...

s cannot pass through this canal due to clearance limits under bridges, MS Norwegian Dream
Norwegian Dream
MS Norwegian Dream is a cruise ship owned by Star Cruises. She was built in 1992 by the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France as MS Dreamward for traffic with Norwegian Cruise Line...

 has special funnels and masts that can be lowered for passage. Swan Hellenic
Swan Hellenic
Swan Hellenic is a British cruise line specialising in tours of historical or cultural interest aimed at the upper end of the cruise market.-History:...

's Minerva
Minerva (ship)
The first Minerva is a cruise ship built in 1989, and originally intended as a Soviet research vessel, the Okean. The deal to purchase her fell through and she was purchased by Swan Hellenic in 1996, and renamed Minerva. She is 436 feet long, has a beam of 65.6 feet and measures 12,500 gross tons...

, Fred Olsen Cruises' ship Balmoral, Oceania Cruises' Regatta, and MS Prinsendam of Holland America Line are able to transit the canal.

The German Navy
German Navy
The German Navy is the navy of Germany and is part of the unified Bundeswehr .The German Navy traces its roots back to the Imperial Fleet of the revolutionary era of 1848 – 52 and more directly to the Prussian Navy, which later evolved into the Northern German Federal Navy...

’s sail training barque Gorch Fock
Gorch Fock (1958)
The Gorch Fock is a tall ship of the German Navy . She is the second ship of that name and a sister ship of the Gorch Fock built in 1933. Both ships are named in honor of the German writer Johann Kinau who wrote under the pseudonym "Gorch Fock" and died in the battle of Jutland/Skagerrak in 1916...

 was designed to allow lowering (telescoping) of the tops of her masts, 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 235.5 metres (772.6 ft); with the maximum width of 32.5 metres (106.6 ft) these ships can have a draught of up to 7 metres (23 ft). Ships up to a length of 160 metres (524.9 ft) may have a draught up to 9.5 metres (31.2 ft). The bulker Ever Leader is considered the cargo ship that came closest to the overall limits, yet.


Several railway lines and federal roads (Autobahnen and Bundesstraße
Bundesstraße , abbreviated B, is the denotation for German and Austrian national highways.-Germany:...

n) cross the canal on eleven fixed links. The bridges have a clearance of 42 metres (137.8 ft) allowing for ship heights up to 40 metres (131.2 ft). The oldest bridge still in use is the Levensau High Bridge from 1893, however the bridge will have to be replaced in the course of a canal expansion already underway. In sequence and in the direction of the official kilometre count from west (Brunsbüttel) to east (Holtenau) these crossings are:
  • Brunsbüttel High Bridge, four lane crossing of Bundesstraße 5
    Bundesstraße 5
    The Bundesstraße 5 or B5 is a German federal highway running in a northwesterly to southeasterly direction from the Danish border near Niebüll to Frankfurt . It provides a direct route for motorists traveling between Berlin and Hamburg. In Berlin B5 forms among others the following squares and...

  • Hochdonn High Bridge of the Marsh Railway
  • Hohenhörn High Bridge for Autobahn 23
    Bundesautobahn 23
    is an autobahn in Germany. It runs largely parallel to the Bundesstraße 5; its main purpose is to connect the hinterland of Hamburg. North of Heide, the A 23 becomes B 5 and connects Eiderstedt, Husum and the ferries to the islands of Nordfriesland to the autobahn network....

  • Grünental High Bridge for railway line Neumünster
    Neumünster is an independent town in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, which has a total of four independent towns.-Current Situation:Neumünster station is major railway junction with lines running in six directions, including the important Hamburg-Altona–Kiel and Neumünster–Flensburg lines.Near...

    Heide is a town in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is the capital of the Kreis Dithmarschen. Population: 21,000.The German word Heide means "heath". In the 15th century four adjoining villages decided to build a church in the "middle of the heath". This remained the town's name to date...

     and Bundesstraße 204
  • Rendsburg High Bridge
    Rendsburg High Bridge
    The Rendsburg High Bridge is a railway viaduct on the Neumünster–Flensburg line that also serves as a transporter bridge. The bridge crosses the Kiel Canal at Rendsburg in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein...

     for the Neumünster–Flensburg railway, also a transporter bridge
    Transporter bridge
    A transporter bridge is a type of movable bridge that carries a segment of roadway across a river. The gondola is slung from a tall span by wires or a metal frame. The design has been used to cross navigable rivers or other bodies of water, where there is a requirement for ship traffic to be...

     for local traffic
  • Kanaltunnel Rendsburg, road tunnel for Bundesstraße 77 (four lanes)
  • Rade High Bridge for Autobahn A7
  • Levensau High Bridge from 1893 for the Kiel–Flensburg railway
    Kiel–Flensburg railway
    The Kiel–Flensburg railway is a single-track railway in Schleswig-Holstein. The railway connects the city of Kiel on the Baltic Sea with Eckernförde and Flensburg. As trains reach a speed of on the line - rather fast for a local railway - the stretch is nicknamed schnellste Nebenbahn Deutschlands...

     and a local road
  • New Levensau High Bridge for Bundesstraße 76 (four lanes)
  • Holtenau High Bridges, two parallel bridges with three car lanes each as well as pavements for pedestrians and cyclists

Local traffic is catered for by 14 ferry lines and a pedestrian tunnel. Most noteworthy is the “hanging ferry” beyond the Rendsburg High Bridge. All ferries are run by the Canal Authority and their use is free of charge.

In popular culture

The board game
Board game
A board game is a game which involves counters or pieces being moved on a pre-marked surface or "board", according to a set of rules. Games may be based on pure strategy, chance or a mixture of the two, and usually have a goal which a player aims to achieve...

 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
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...


Crime writer Emma Lathen's
Emma Lathen
Emma Lathen is the pen name of two American businesswomen: an economist Mary Jane Latsis and an economic analyst Martha Henissart ,who received her B.A. in physics from Mount Holyoke College in 1950....

1997 novel, "A Shark Out of Water", revolves around the murder of a Polish official who was championing the improvement of the Kiel Canal.

External links

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