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History of the Piastowski Channel

Our future is associated with water – the Emperor Wilhelm II said in 1898 while opening the duty free port in Szczecin. Nobody knows today whether His Highness would have said the sentence if the 7.5 km channel had not divided the Uznam Island into two parts some 17 years earlier, constituting foundations of the modern port in Szczecin.

Following the Piana River towards the sea

The first annotations on the Port of Szczecin come from the times of Otton I, the Emperor who conferred several privileges to Szczecin and incorporated a fragment of Odra River into the borders of the City. Within the period of Otton I rule, as well as during the following 500 years the main waterway leading from Szczecin to Baltic Sea was the Piana River. According to the provisions of Versal Treaty of 1648, after the 30-year War, the region of Pomorze Zaodrzanskie (Odra Precinct Pomerania) together with Uznam Island, Wolin Island, Szczecin Bay and three rivers – Piana, Dziwna and Swina – went under the rule of Sweden. That status protracted by 1720 when the region of West Pomerania went under the rule of Prussians. Even then, however, the presence of Swedish could still be perceived. Taking advantage of the convenient location of Ologoszcz Town the Swedish imposed pretty high customs charges for using Piana River. The charges were cancelled not earlier than in 1815. The high charges gave rise to search for new possible waterway connection leading to Baltic Sea.

Swina River – new waterway connection

The connection to Swina River was chosen. Soon after the decision the dredging works started and the river bed underwent regulation. The hydrotechnic works continued for the entire eighteenth century. When the estuary of Piana River got under control of Prussians the Swina River was regulated well enough to reason its maintenance and modernization.

Successive and unavoidable development of trading fleet forced the modernization of fairway between Szczecin and Swinoujscie. The steamships, much faster and bigger than sailboats, came into regular use (the first steamship called Szczecin in 1823). The navigation along Swina River was no longer safe enough for new vessels. It appeared to shallow and winding, its depth of 4 m became insufficient. Therefore, the bigger size vessels were partially unloaded in Swinoujscie port and part of their cargo transported to Szczecin on flat-bottomed boats.

Fairway

The plans to construct a channel across Uznam Island were developed in 1862. However, the works were commenced 13 years later in 1875. The construction works lasted for five years and cost 3.5 million German marks. Successful finalization of the undertaking was the opening of Cesar Channel on 26 June 1880. The Uznam Island was divided with 7.5 km long Emperor’s Channel  (Kaiserfahrt), the previous name of Piastowski Channel. The channel brought forth new possibilities of vessel servicing for the port and shipyards of Szczecin – allowed to handle vessels which could not enter the port earlier. Within 1893 – 1900 the channel was made deeper to 7 meters and its banks consolidated and strengthened. The 2-km fragment of the Channel, from the side of Szczecin Bay was additionally strengthened with piling-stone piers.

A subsequent phase of Szczecin-Swinoujscie fairway modernization was the construction of another channel, Mielinski Channel across Mielin Island in 1890s. The most significant fascine-stone strengthening of Piastowski Channel banks were accomplished in 1928 while in 1931 the outlet of Piastowski Channel towards Szczecin Bay was furnished with the first traffic gate.

Necessary investment

For the last half-century period the statistics on the ports of Szczecin and Swinoujscie shows hundreds million tons of cargo handled and ten thousands of vessels serviced. Many important investments of Szczecin, and especially Swinoujscie made throughout the past 130 years were possible thanks to a decision taken in 1875. Thanks to the determination and wise investments after the War II our two Cities have created and established one of the largest port complexes in Baltic Region.

Today, Piastowski Channel with its 130-year operation and exploitation is the subject of modernization projects that should improve the navigation conditions there.

Of key importance for the further development of both ports is also the deepening of the Swinoujscie-Szczecin fairway to a depth of 12 m.