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The Vistula Spit Canal

The first stage of construction of the new waterway connecting the Vistula Lagoon with the Gulf of Gdańsk took less than three years to complete, but the preparations for the project had begun much earlier. The very idea of building a canal dates back to the reign of King Stephen Bathory and after World War II it was revisited by Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski, the builder of the harbour and the city of Gdynia: Two tasks of great economic importance are staring us in the face. One is to dig a canal across the Spit locking the Elbląg Bay, near Kahlberg, thus producing a straight and direct exit to the Baltic and enlivening the small fishing ports on that Bay.

Initial design work started as early as 2007, when a feasibility study concerning the potential project commenced. Three other locations were considered apart from the one that was eventually accepted. However, they were excluded due to the vicinity of nature reserves, forest parks or developed areas. The choice of the location also depended on the topography of the area and the length of the future canal.

The building of the Vistula Spit Canal is the most complicated hydrotechnical engineering project in Poland. Absolutely unique solutions were used in the making of the canal, such as innovative concrete blocks for the construction of breakwaters. They had only been used once earlier in the Netherlands. Poland was the first place in the world where such blocks were also deployed under the water.

Great emphasis was also laid on ensuring smooth traffic flow. The new road system comprises two swing bridges ensuring uninterrupted traffic even during the lockage. The building permit design was an interdisciplinary one comprising elements of hydrotechnical engineering, highway engineering, bridge engineering, architecture and installations. The Nowy Świat Harbour Master’s Office is the centre of the facility but its most important element is the lock with two double lock gates. An artificial island was created in the Vistula Lagoon for depositing spoil. Ultimately, the island will be left deserted and serve as a refuge for birds.

The canal connecting the Vistula Lagoon with the Gulf of Gdańsk was officially opened on 17 September 2022, but the whole project also comprises the rebuilding of the existing fairway on the Elbląg River, the construction of a new swing bridge in Nowakowo and the deepening of the fairway on the Vistula Lagoon and the Elbląg River. The whole future waterway will be nearly 23 km long. The Maritime Office in Gdynia is the investor financing all the stages of the project.

The reverse of the 5 złoty coin of the series “Discover Poland” – “The Vistula Spit Canal” features the Nowy Świat Harbour Master’s Office building and an entry to the canal from the Vistula Lagoon.

Magdalena Kierzkowska
Maritime Office in Gdynia