After 18 months of repairs in the first part of its €32 million or AU$47 million restoration, the Corinth Canal reopened on July 4 and in its first week of operation 400 ships have already used the artificial shortcut between the Aegean and Ionian seas.
The canal’s management company, Corinth Canal SA, expects nearly 7,000 people to have used the canal by October, when the second phase comes into effect.
Under normal circumstances, such as in 2019, Greek News Agenda reported that 55% of the 11,417 ships that used the 6.4 km long canal were related to tourism with ships ranging from small tourist craft to merchant ships, vessels cruise ships and tankers.
Its walls rise at an almost vertical slope of 80° at 90 m above the sea. The channel is 24.6 m wide at sea level and 21.3 m wide at the bottom, i.e. between 7 .5 m and 8 m below sea level.
The second phase of the restoration project will take place in the fall and aims to reduce the risk of landslides and will further strengthen the rock walls of the canal. A 3.5km long paved and fenced pathway is to be constructed as part of a plan to allow visitors safer access along the canal and will also increase its status as a tourist attraction in its own right.
Other aspects of the canal infrastructure will be upgraded to include online services and ticketing for smoother and more accessible use of the canal.
Corinth Canal SA chief executive George Zouglis said the works on the canal, along with improvements to the wider area, will by 2024 provide increased support for local tourism and provide an upgraded shipping hub. . He said the restoration project which was being carried out by the Greek Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport as well as the Hellenic Society of Assets and Shareholdings, would maximize the value of the canal not only for the regional economy but for the nation as a whole. .
Over the millennia, many attempts have been made to dig a channel that would significantly shorten the maritime journey between the Ionian and Aegean seas.
It was not until 1882 that Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis gave the green light for the start of work. Trikoupis was the canal as a symbol of the modernization of Greece.
The canal took 11 years to complete.
Its cost along with systemic corruption led Trikoupis to declare in parliament in 1893, “Unfortunately, we are bankrupt”.
The canal remains a lasting legacy of its modernization ambitions. Trikoupis’ other great legacy was enabling the first modern Olympic Games to take place despite his apprehensions about the cost.