A ship canal is a canal especially intended to accommodate ships used on the oceans, seas or lakes to which it is connected, as opposed to a barge canal intended to carry barges and other vessels specifically designed for river and/or canal navigation. Because of the constraints of accommodating vessels capable of navigating large bodies of open water, a ship canal typically offers deeper water and higher bridge clearances that a barge canal of similar vessel length and width constraints.
Ship canals may be specially constructed from the start to accommodate ships, or less frequently they may be enlarged barge canals, or canalized or channelized rivers. There are no specific minimum dimensions for ship canals, with the size being largely dictated by the size of ships in use nearby at the time of construction or enlargement.
Ship canals may be constructed for a number of reasons, including:
To create a shortcut and avoid lengthy detours.
To create a navigable shipping link between two land-locked seas or lakes.