The Saimaa Canal (Finnish: Saimaan kanava; Swedish: Saima kanal; Russian: Сайменский канал) is a transportation canal that connects lake Saimaa with the Gulf of Finland near Vyborg, Russia. The canal was built from 1845 to 1856 and opened on 7 September 1856 (Old Style: 26 August 1856). It was overhauled and widened in 1963–1968.
A system of inland waterways and canals in the 120 interconnected lakes of the south-central and south-east part of Finland (Finnish Lakeland) are reached through the canal. The network of deep channels in Lake Saimaa with at least a draught of 4.2 metres (14 ft) covers 814 kilometres (506 mi). The deep channels extend all the way to Kuopio in Central Finland.
The canal begins near Lauritsala, Lappeenranta, Finland ( ) and ends in Vyborg, Russia ( ), connecting Lake Saimaa and the Vyborg Bay. On the way, it connects Lake Nuijamaa, on the Finnish–Russian border ( ), and three smaller lakes in Russia.
- Length: 42.9 km (26.7 mi)
- Finnish part: 23.3 km (14.5 mi)
- Russian part: 19.6 km (12.2 mi)
- Width: from 34 to 55 m (112 to 180 ft)
- Total lift from the Gulf of Finland to Lake Saimaa: 75.7 m (248 ft)
- The maximum dimensions allowed for a ship transiting the canal are:
- 217 boundary pillars between Canal Rented Zone and main territory of Russia.
There are three locks in the Finnish part of the canal
- Mälkiä ( )
- Mustola ( )
- Soskua ( )
Other five locks situated on the Russian side of the border:
- Pälli ( )
- Ilyistoye (former Lietjärvi) ( )
- Tsvetochnoye (former Rättijärvi) )
- Iskrovka (former Särkijärvi) ( )
- Brusnichnoye (former Juustila) ( )
Mälkiä Lock has highest lift (12.4 m (41 ft)), Tsvetochnoye Lock has the lowest (5.5 m (18 ft)).
The canal crosses
- 12 motor vehicles bridges:
- 6 of them in Finland – 3 movable and 3 immovable
- the other 6 in Russia – 4 movable and 2 immovable
- 2 railroad bridges (one on the each side of the border), both of them are immovable.
Following a treaty agreement in 1963, the USSR leased the Soviet section of the canal area and the Maly Vysotsky Island (Ravansaari) to Finland for fifty years. A new deeper canal was constructed by the Finns, which opened to traffic in 1968. The length of the canal itself is 42.9 kilometres (26.7 mi). Under the new Saimaa Canal lease treaty signed by the Finnish and Russian governments in 2010, Maly Vysotsky Island was again to be managed by Russian authorities. The treaty went into effect on 17 February 2012.
The area is not part of Finland; it is a special part of Russia. Russian law is in force, with a few exceptions concerning maritime rules and the employment of canal staff, which fall under Finnish jurisdiction. There are also special rules concerning vessels traveling to Finland via the canal. Russian visas are not required for just passing through the canal, but a passport is needed and it is checked at the border.
Negotiations in 2008 agreed upon an extension of 50 years beginning in 2013, with an increase of the yearly rent of 290,000 euros to 1.22 million euros. The rent will thereafter be adjusted every 10 years. (The original rent was increased only once between 1963 and 2013.)