The Main-Danube-Canal, built from 1960 to 1992, is a 171 km long Federal Waterway Class Vb connecting the Main near Bamberg with the Donau at Kelheim. At the north ramp of the canal an altitude of 175 m is overcome by 11 locks and at the south ramp an altitude of 68 m is handled by 5 locks. The summit altitude between the locks Hilpoltstein and Bachhausen is 406 m above sea level, thus the highest canal reach in the European Waterway Network. Via the river Rhine, the canal enables a shipping connection between Rotterdam at the North Sea and the harbour of Constanta at the Black Sea.
The construction of the canal began in 1960 at the side of the river Main. The stretch between Bamberg and today's port Bayernhafen Nuernberg was finished in 1972. Due to a catastrophic dam failure in 1979 at the following stretch between Nuernberg and Roth, resulting from a water flow round a pipeline in the dam, the further required dam stretches of the canal were placed as deep as possible and an excavated alignment was preferred.
In the 1970s and 1980s the construction of the south ramp of the canal between the locks Bachhausen and Kelheim was controversially disputed with respect to ecological, economical and safety-related aspects. Ecological objections refer especially to the alignment of the canal in the river stretch of the Altmuehl south of the lock Dietfurt down to the Danube. Up to the completion of the Main-Danube-Canal in 1992 the highest expenses for ecological compensatory measures have been spent in this stretch of the canal.
The locks of the Main-Danube-Canal have an effective length of 190 m, an effective width of 12.0 m and a vertical lift of 5.30 to 24.70 m. Most of the locks are shaft locks with economising basins. With a vertical lift of 24.70 m the identical locks Leerstetten, Eckersmuehlen and Hilpoltstein are the locks with the highest lift in Germany. The construction of the locks started in 1966 at the north ramp of the canal with the lock Bamberg and was finished with the lock Berching at the south ramp in 1991.
The main transported goods at the Main-Danube-Canal are food and feed followed by agricultural and forest products, ores and scrap, fertilizers, iron, steel and nonferrous metals as well as stones and soil. The total volume of goods transported on the Main-Danube-Canal in 2011 was 5.3 million tons after 6.2 million tons in 2010 (Traffic Report 2011, WSD Sued). In addition to the transportation of goods the passenger transport, both cruise vessels and day-trip vessels, play an important role on the Main-Danube-Canal with 180,000 passenger's seats in 2011.
The video records of the locks Dietfurt, Kriegenbrunn and Hilpoltstein have been made by the Institute of Hydraulic and Coastal Engineering (IWA) of the Bremen University of Applied Science kindly supported by the Water and Shipping Authority Nuernberg.