Kiel Canal Vessel Traffic Falls 8.1% as Locks Close for Repairs

Ship traffic on Germany’s Kiel Canal, the world’s busiest artificial waterway, fell 8.1 percent in the first half as some locks closed for repairs.

The number of vessels passing along the canal slid to 15,940 from a year earlier, the Kiel-based northern branch of federal waterways and shipping administration WSV said today in a statement. Cargo handling declined 6.7 percent to 48.8 million metric tons.

Eighty-eight vessels used the waterway linking the North and Baltic seas each day in the first half, according to Bloomberg calculations. The canal opened in 1895, during Kaiser Wilhelm II’s reign, and had to shut to the biggest ships for part of March for lock repairs, increasing fuel and charter costs by forcing vessels to pass around Denmark.

“The decrease was mainly due to the 21 percent drop in the number of ships in March, when the big locks in Brunsbuettel were closed for about a week,” WSV spokeswoman Claudia Thoma said by phone.

Cargo volumes rose 2 percent from a year earlier to 8.3 million tons in June, signaling a rebound, according to the statement. “Ships going through the canal are well utilized,” the WSV said.

The canal carries a third of the containers that are loaded and unloaded at Hamburg, Europe’s third-biggest port, according to the city’s port authority. The national government plans to build a fifth lock chamber at Brunsbuettel, which is expected to be ready in 2020. The canal is the most heavily used artificial waterway in the world, its website shows.

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