Canal Seine-Nord Europe (Projected)

Information about the 105km long canal planned to go from a junction with the Liaison Dunkerque-Escaut (Grand Gabarit) near Aleux to the River Oise north of Compiegne.

Update July 2012 – It looks like the canal will be cancelled. Update July 2015 – it looks like a revised reduced scheme may go ahead.

The Seine-Nord Europe Canal is the central section of the Seine-Scheldt high-capacity European waterway link. This link forms a new system for transporting goods between France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany within the corridor connecting the economic centres of northern Europe. It also links together the major ports of Le Havre, Rouen, Dunkerque, Ghent, Zeebrugge, Rotterdam and Antwerp.

The canal will enable large vessels up to 4,400 tonnes to transit north-south between the Rivers Scheldt and Seine and it will by-pass both the Canal Saint-Quentin (the traditional northern French main commercial route) and the Canal du Nord(the current main commercial route, opened in 1965). A few years after the Canal du Nord was opened to 600 tonne vessels in 1965, the 21 locks along the canal were already saturated with goods traffic. It would appear that a serious miscalculation was made in its planning and especially in the construction of the locks, which could easily have been built larger (the canal channel itself is wide). Following the first preliminary studies (1975-1985) for a new, high-capacity (3300 – 4500 tonnes) waterway that would be compatible with the European network, and following discussions with the four French regions concerned the Seine-Nord link was included in April 1985 in the European inland waterways master plan.


The project’s budget will be €2.6 billion, (more?) funded by the European Union, the French government, local regional governments and through public-private partnerships.

The canal will be 54m wide with a maximum available draft of 3m (4.5m water depth) and 7m air draft (headroom). There will be seven locks, varying in height from 15m to 30m (however the lock onto the Oise is 6m), and three aqueducts, including one 1.3km long over the River Somme. Interestingly, five ports de plaisance are planned – although one imagines that many pleasure boats will stick to the Canal du Nord when large commercial traffic departs for the Seine-Nord.

Tenders for the project were invited early in 2010. Work is programmed to start in 2011 with a target opening date of 2015.

<map, from the official website