Canals are man-made waterways to connect major seawater routes for the smooth passage of vessels. Simply put it is an alternative shorter route created for vessels, particularly cargo vessels to save time and avoid traveling far out of their way. There are hundreds of canals all over the world, a few of them are famous canals in terms of their length, width, depth, or simply because they are the busiest traffic routes. Read on to know about the different canals of the world which are in no particular order.

7 Famous Shipping Canals From Around The World

Grand Canal

canals in the world
China’s grand canal to apply for world cultural heritage succeed

Country: China

Length: 1,776 Km

Connection: Beijing-Hebei-Shandong-Jiangsu-Zhejiang-Hagzhou        

The Grand Canal, built in 468 BC is the longest and oldest shipping canal in the world. Today it is listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It connects northern and southern China while passing through several rivers; thereby connecting many provinces in the country. It plays a major role in the transportation of tons of cargo which contributes greatly to the economy of the country. An estimated 100,000 vessels pass through this canal each year.

Suez Canal       

famous canals
The Suez Canal – a ship convoy passes through the new eastern extension canal, opened in August 2015, a tugboat in the foreground

Country: Egypt             

Length: 193.5 Km        

Connection: Mediterranean Sea-Red Sea

This 120 miles long canal is one of the most crucial shipping canals in the world. It is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt that was built between 1859 and 1869. Ferdinand De Lesseps and his team took ten years to build this canal. The Suez Canal reduces the travel time from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic by 7000 km, basically a short link between the East and West for maritime trade. It has been recognized as one of the most extensively used shipping routes in the world.

Panama Canal

canals of the world
Bridge of the Americas is one of the three bridges that pass over the Panama Canal

Country: Panama       

Length: 82 km  

Connection: Atlantic and Pacific oceans

The construction of the Panama Canal was one of the most ambitious projects in the history of mankind. The oceans that the canal connects with are not on the same level, hence making it one of the most difficult engineering projects. A solution to this was the use of Lock Gates on both sides to either lift the vessel or drop it to sea level. The Panama Canal opened in 1914 provides a link between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This 82km canal helps vessels sailing between the east and west coasts of the US shorten the journey by 15,000 km.

Corinth Canal

 largest canal in the world
Corinth Canal from above

Country: Greece          

Length: 6.4 km             

Connection: Gulf of Corinth of the Ionian Sea and the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea

Corinth Canal, the narrowest and deepest canal in the world passes through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth. Construction of the canal began way back in the 7th century B.C. but was opened only in 1893. The mastermind behind the construction of this canal was Hungarian architects Tyrr and Gerster who worked on this project for 12 years. The canal is considered important as it helps seafarers avoid the dangers of sailing around the Peloponnese’s treacherous underwater rocks while moving between the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf. Because of its width of only 21 meters, it’s incapable of accommodating modern ships that are big in size. This canal which serves about 15,000 ships from 50 countries is considered the most expensive canal in the world.

Erie Canal   

meaning of canals
Erie Canal, Lockport, New York, in the fall

Country: USA

Length: 584 km

Connection: Albany-New York-Buffalo

Erie Canal, a historic canal in upstate New York began its construction in 1817 and was completed in 1825. Due to its growing traffic, the Canal was further enlarged between 1836 and 1862. The first navigable waterway connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes is considered one of the finest American accomplishments. The economic benefits of using this canal were enormous. It reduced the cost of transporting products from Buffalo to New York City from $100 per ton to around $10 per ton. This canal was not just a financial success but it also triggered large-scale commercial, agricultural, and immigration development. Until the 20th century, the canal remained an essential water route connecting a number of cities, but today tourist ships form the basis of its major traffic flow.

Kiel Canal

largest man made canal in the world
Boats in the Kiel seaport – Germany, Schleswig-Holstein

Country: Germany     

Length: 98 km

Connection: Baltic Sea and the North Sea

Opened in 1895, the 98 km-long Kiel Canal passes through the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. This artificial waterway helps vessels to bypass the longer route through Denmark. Kiel Canal links the North Sea to the Baltic Sea and provides a direct link between the two Sea regions. It not only shortened the path by 700 km but also helped ships to avoid difficult and unstable maritime routes. With an average of 250 ships passing through the canal every day, it is considered the busiest man-made waterway in Europe. It took eight long years and more than 9,000 workers to complete the construction of the present-day canal.

Rhine-Main-Danube Canal

cities with canals
Beautiful Side view of the Canal

Country: Germany     

Length: 171 km

Connection: North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea

The Rhine-Main–Danube Canal (RMD Canal), also called Main-Danube Canal, or Europa Canal is a waterway that connects the main and the Danube Rivers. Construction of this most important sea route began during the First World War and was completed in 1992. The RMD canal runs from Bamberg on the Main River to Kelheim on the Danube River. This canal rises and falls because of the extreme height differences between the two rivers. A total of 16 locks, 11 on the Rhine basin and the rest on the Danube had to be constructed to alternately lift and lower ships along their journey.

Also Read: Travel Through Elaborate Waterways In These Beautiful Canal Cities

Which are the two most famous canals in the world?

Panama and Suez canals are the two most important canals for international shipping lanes.

What’s the biggest shipping canal in the world?

The artificial sea-level waterway – Suez Canal in Egypt, is the world’s biggest canal.

What is the oldest canal in the world?

The Grand Canal of China is not only the world’s oldest canal but also the longest canal in the world.

What is the largest man-made canal in the world?

Grand Canal (1776 km), Qaraqum Canal (1375 km), Saimaa Canal (814 km), and Eurasia Canal (700 km) are some of the world’s largest canals.

Which is the deepest canal in the world?

With 8 meters (26 feet) depth, the Corinth Canal is considered to be the deepest canal in the world.

Which is the busiest canal in the world?

The Kiel Canal of Germany which connects the North Sea and the Baltic Sea is the busiest canal in the world.


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