Navigation in the Saimaa Canal and Lake Saimaa
Information about navigation in the Saimaa Canal and Lake Saimaa is provided by the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency's Lappeenranta Waterways Unit. Regulations, instructions and announcements regarding the canal and navigation in the canal are also published in the booklet Notices to Mariners.
The natural open water season in southern Lake Saimaa and in the Saimaa Canal is on average 211 days. Since many of the vessels navigating in the canal and in Lake Saimaa have been surveyed for winter traffic, the navigation season has lately been as long as 9.5-10 months; from the beginning of April to the end of January. During the navigation season Saimaa Canal, as well as the rest of the canals in the deep channels, are open 24 hours a day.
Vessels with the following maximum dimensions are allowed to navigate in the canal without special permission:
Length: 82.50 m
Breadth: 12.60 m
Draught: 4.35 m
Mast height above water level: 24.50 m
The draught of a towed vessel may be 4.50 m.
Pilotage is compulsory for all vessels, with the exemption of vessels with a length of less than 35 metres.
Special permission to vessels exceeding the maximum dimensions
Vessels marginally exceeding the above-mentioned dimensions may, on application, be granted special permission to pass through the canal, if the vessel is suitable for canal navigation in terms of construction and properties. In addition, special permission for one passage can be granted an oversized vessel or device carrying exceptional cargo. The permissions are granted by the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency's Lappeenranta Waterways Unit.
Special regulations for vessels on tow and for timber rafting
The traffic regulations include more precise provisions on for example maximum permissible dimensions for towing and timber rafting in open canal sections.
Cruising speed and passage time
The maximum permitted speed in the canal is 9 km/h for vessels, with a draught exceeding 3.9 m. A stepwise speed limit between 9 and 18 km/h is set for vessels with less draught, depending on the vessel draught and channel dimensions. It takes about 5-8 hours to pass through the canal section with locks (Mälkiä-Brusnitchnoe) depending on the rest of the traffic and the vessel size.
The buoyage systems in the entrance to and in the Saimaa Canal as well as in the channels in Lake Saimaa are sufficient to ensure safe navigation for vessels 24 hours a day.
The entrances are marked with lights, light buoys and spar buoys using lateral marks according to the international System A. Russian authorities are responsible for the buoyage in the entrances.
In Saimaa Canal the aids to navigations are signal lights, which are orange on the west side and green on the east side of the canal, as well as spar buoys, leading beacons, lights and radar reflectors in accordance with the international system.
Channels in Lake Saimaa
The buoyage used in the channels follows the combined cardinal and lateral system in the international system A.
VHF channels in the Saimaa watercourse
In the Saimaa watercourse there is a VHF radio network for waterborne traffic. VTS radio traffic, call: Saimaa VTS, VHF channel 9. All vessels and passenger vessels with a length over 20 metres are required to maintain a listening watch on VHF channel 9 in the Saimaa Canal area and in the Saimaa deep channel network. Vessels are required to maintain a listening watch on VHF channels 9 and 11 in Saimaa Canal and channels 9 and 16 in the Saimaa lake district.
Saimaa Canal remote use services at Taipale lock (Varkaus) and Konnus lock (Leppävirta), call: "Name of lock", VHF channel 11.
Nautical charts of the Saimaa watercourse
In the nautical charts published for the Saimaa watercourse and the Saimaa Canal there is, in addition to the necessary charts, further information which improves maritime safety. The chart folios of the inland waterways in Lake Saimaa are in scale 1:40 000 and the scale of the Saimaa Canal charts between Vyborg and Saimaa is 1:10 000. The canal charts are in Finnish and in English.
Passage is permitted for merchant vessels of all nationalities.
Merchant shipping follows normal international maritime regulations, and no other than normal documents is required from the vessels or their crews.
The inspections when entering or leaving the country are carried out by the Russian border authorities at the Pälli Lock in the Saimaa Canal. The corresponding inspection when entering the country is carried out at the customs quay in Nuijamaa.