Work on Snøhetta’s “world’s first” tunnel for ships will soon begin in Norway

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Work on Snøhetta’s “world’s first” tunnel for ships will soon begin in Norway

By 2025 or 2026, ships could pass straight through Norway’s Stad peninsula. Pictured here is the western side of the tunnel, which will get a new bridge. (The Norwegian Coastal Administration/Snøhetta)

The world’s first tunnel for large ships has been approved and will soon begin looking for contractors in Norway. The Snøhetta-designed tunnel, which will punch a mile-long hole through Norway’s Stad peninsula, is expected to begin construction in 2022.

Of course, blasting the 1.05-mile-long Stad Ship Tunnel won’t come cheap and it’s estimated construction will cost $328 million. The returns are well worth it, however; the peninsula sits at a particularly choppy and exposed portion of Norway’s western coast at the intersection of the Norwegian and North seas. Navigating around the peninsula adds an additional 35 miles to any coastal trip at slow speeds due to the treacherous weather and wave conditions. Boats traveling through the new tunnel will be able to do so at a speed of 2 knots (2.3 miles per hour) thanks to the similar tidal conditions on both sides.

rendering of a ship tunnel with sloped stone walls
Wire-cutting and blasting will be used to remove nearly 4 million cubic yards of stone from the peninsula. Pictured here is the eastern side of the tunnel. (The Norwegian Coastal Administration/Snøhetta)

The 120-foot-tall, 87-foot-wide tunnel will allow ships of up to 17,500 tons to avoid the “most exposed and most dangerous area along the coast of Norway,” according to the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA). On February 22, the NCA confirmed that the Ministry of Transport and Communications had given the go-ahead to begin construction and allocated $8.8 million for pre-construction and studies in 2021 (75 million NOK). The NCA estimates that once a contractor is found and work begins in 2022, the project will take three-to-four years to realize.

The Stad Ship Tunnel was first unveiled in 2017 and has been undergoing feasibility and technical studies in the years since as projected costs fluctuated (the project was estimated to cost 3.45 billion NOK in December of 2020, and the most recent announcement lowered that to 2.8 billion).

Interior rendering of a stone tunnel with LED lights
LEDs will be used to illuminate the tunnel interior. Raised paths will also be added for maintenance and in the case of emergency evacuations. (The Norwegian Coastal Administration/Snøhetta)

Snøhetta’s role in all of this was designing the sloped stone entrance portals on either side of the tunnel, which will gradually taper and mimic natural rock formations. New waterfront walkways will be added to the landscape for ground-level ship watchers, and a nearby road on the western side of the peninsula will be rerouted over a new bridge to provide better views.

Oslo-founded Snøhetta is something of an old hand at maritime design at this point; an underwater restaurant, semi-submerged community center, and a floating hotel in a fjord are just a few recent examples.