Germany's Kiel canal reopens for most ships after collision
FRANKFURT Oct 31 (Reuters) - Germany's Kiel canal linking the Baltic Sea with the North Sea reopened on Thursday for a majority of ships while emergency services sought to unload a freighter which collided with another on Monday.
"Traffic can go in both directions," the Central Command for Maritime Emergencies Germany based in Cuxhaven said in a press release, which said the site had been assessed and given clearance.
"Unloading the ship (Siderfly) now has priority," it said.
A spokeswoman for the emergency service said that ships up to 140 metres were allowed to travel again and only one of a bigger size was currently held up.
The hull of Siderfly, carrying fertiliser to Antwerp under the flag of St Vincent & Grenadines, was pierced in two locations in the accident near Brunsbuettel, threatening its stability.
After safe connections were created overnight to tie it to a fleet of heavy bulldozers onshore, the haulers that had stabilised the ship initially left the area, freeing up space.
The Kiel canal is the world's busiest man-made waterway by number of ship passages, although the Panama and Suez canals are used by far bigger ships carrying much heavier cargoes.
Ships crossing the Kiel canal carry goods from the Baltics, Scandinavia and Russia to ports in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and back.
When the canal does not operate, ships have to take a route around the Danish Jutland peninsula which adds 463 km (250 sea miles) to their journey.
The collision involved Siderfly and Coral Ivory, a Dutch-flagged carrier bound for Finland, with 28 crew on both ships together escaping unharmed. (Reporting by Vera Eckert; editing by Jane Merriman)