A ship canal is a canal especially constructed to carry ocean-going ships, as opposed to barges. Ship canals can be enlarged barge canals, canalised or channelized riverss, or canals especially constructed from the start to accommodate ships.
For a canal to qualify as a ship canal, it must have a minimum depth of at least 5 metres (16.4 feet), although many are much deeper. The purpose of a ship canal is:
- To create a shortcut and avoid lengthy detours.
- To create a navigable shipping link between two land-locked seas or lakes.
- To provide inland cities with a direct shipping link to the sea.
- Baltic to White Sea Canal (formerly Stalin Canal) in Russia, 141 miles (227 km) long, opened in 1933, is partly a canalised river, partly an artificial canal, and partly some natural lakes.
- Suez Canal in Egypt, 100 miles (160 km) long, opened in 1869, links the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.
- V. I. Lenin Volga-Don Canal in Russia, 62 miles (100 km) long, opened in 1952, connects the Black, Azov, and Caspian Seas.
- Kiel Canal in Germany, 60 miles (98 km) long, opened in 1895. Shortens the passage between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.
- Houston Ship Canal in the USA, 56 miles (91 km) long, connects Houston, Texas to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Alphonse XIII Canal in Spain, 53 miles (85 km) long, opened in1926, mostly canalised river. Links Seville to the Gulf of Cadiz.
- Panama Canal in Panama, 51 miles (82 km) long, opened in 1914. Links the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, creating a shortcut.
- Manchester Ship Canal in England, 35 miles (57 km) long, opened in 1894. Links Manchester to Irish Sea.
- Welland Canal in Canada, 28 miles (45 km) long, opened in 1931. Links Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.