Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Tunnel Vision: Norway’s shipping proposals

The Stad tunnel will be capable of supporting ships of up to 16,000 tonnes The Stad tunnel will be capable of supporting ships of up to 16,000 tonnes
27 May
Norway is to undercut a mountainous peninsula to create the world’s first sea shipping tunnel

‘The Stad tunnel will be the world’s first ocean shipping tunnel,’ says Terje Andreassen, manager of a grand project aiming to dig directly through the Norwegian Stad mountain peninsula. It is hoped that the 1.7 kilometre tunnel will provide a safer passage for ships than the current, exposed route.

Sticking out like an antler from Norway’s coast, the peninsula reaches northwards before spreading into three prongs of land. Exposed to the brunt of the Norwegian sea, the jagged seafront can make for treacherous sailing and often records the highest wind speeds in the country. The solution seems obvious from above: cut through the peninsula at its narrowest point. However, the topography presents a problem.

‘In another country, if the landscape was flatter, you could build a canal,’ says Andreassen. However, in this part of Norway, the land rises to 500 metres above sea level in a mountainous plateau that is maintained across most of the area.

Therefore, the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) will drill tunnels horizontally from both sides of the mountains in order to meet in the middle, removing three million cubic metres of rock in the process. This process will take three to four years to complete and cost an estimated KR2.6billion (£240million). While construction has not yet begun, the tunnel has been included in the government’s most recent transport plan, and, according to the NCA, could open in early 2023.

Though a first for ocean shipping, navigating under mountains is not a new idea. The UK’s deepest underground canal, the Standedge tunnel, opened in 1811 to allow traders to pass under the Pennines. The world’s longest example, meanwhile, is the seven-kilometre Rove tunnel in France, although this is currently disused, having been closed in 1963.

Even at Stad, plans for a tunnel have been pushed back and forth since the 19th century. It was first proposed in a newspaper article in 1874 and was taken up again by Germans during the WWII occupation.

Over the last half century, plans have been revised and debated, however, this was the first year it received government support. ‘There has not been enough political will to do it until now,’ says Andreassen. ‘The focus has been on constructing new roads.’ Indeed, Norway is also home to the 24km Laerdal road tunnel, the longest in the world.

Shipping is the second most important industry to Norway, with petroleum products being the most important cargo. If completed, the Stad tunnel will likely be used by vessels going between offshore oil platforms, as well as a new high-speed passenger ferry between Bergen and Alesund.

Critics, meanwhile, note that the tunnel would not shorten the journey – it would take just as much time to go around the peninsula as under it – and that the high cost would outweigh the benefit.

However, Andreassen believes the environmental upshots of the tunnel could be giving the plan a new edge. ‘Fuel use and pollution are bigger concerns to politicians than they have ever been before,’ he says. ‘A tunnel could reduce both of these.’

This was published in the June 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

Adventure Canada


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...


NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...


In this extract from his new book, Tides, mountain climber…


New data from the World Health Organization reveals that nine…


In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan,…


Benjamin Hennig maps out the global production and distribution levels…


Millions of Americans are living in areas at high-risk of…


New interactive maps combine precipitation and temperature to show climate…


Public transport in India could be on the verge of…


To retrace the route of the fur voyageurs on the waterways…


IPCC Cities and Climate Change Conference: Alberta host dresses non-renewable…


Increased carbon dioxide is affecting freshwater ecosystems


The latest laser scanning technology reveals new insights into the…


Deforestation is having an unexpected effect in the Amazon: fewer…


The iconic Douglas fir tree, familiar to fans of the…


Rocky Mountain forests are not regenerating after wildfires


Cape Town is edging closer to ‘Day Zero’, the long-feared…


Ongoing restoration projects are breathing new life into Florida’s Everglades


Despite protests, an experimental pedestrianisation system is proving to be…


National Archives map historian, Rose Mitchell, highlights some of the…


An expedition into the Jordanian desert is helping teachers and…


Trivia fans take note, Mount Hope in the British Antarctic…