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Ship Locks Construction, Three Gorges Dam Ship Locks
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The Three Gorges Dam Ship Locks

The Ship Lock, together with the dam itself, belongs to part of the whole dam project, playing the key factor on navigation. Presently, with the improvement of the Yangtze Cruise tourism, the ship lock is becoming one of the attractions along the Yangtze River.


Introduce the Ship Locks

Among the reasons to build the Three Gorges Dam, one is to improve the navigation capacity. The ship locks are contributed mostly in this part. After the installation of ship locks, the river shipping increased and shipping becomes much safer.

Due to the construction of the dam, ships must be lifted or lowered about 100 meters. Because of this height, the water pressure required for a single lock would be too much for one gate to withstand. Instead, the dam uses two locks, each with five gates to raise or lower the vessel about 20 meters.

The two ship locks installed along the two sides of the dam with a total length of 1607 meters. And each gate of lock is 280 meters long and 34 wide. The Maximum vessel size is 10,000 tons, increased six times and reduced the cost of shipping by 25%, compared with the previous years.

Ship Lock

Ship Lock Overlook


The Theory of Shipping

There is a little difference between the downstream and upstream shipping. One is release water, the other is store water.

Downstream (from Chongqing to Yichang/Shanghai): the fifth gate is first open and release water to the same level of the fourth one. Then the fourth gate opens and the ship comes to the fourth gate. With the same theory, the ship can cross all gates.

Upstream (from Shanghai/Yichang to Chongqing): ship comes to the first gate and store water to the same level of the second gate. Then open the second gate and ship goes in. Follow the step, the ship can cross all gates.

Ship Lock Gate

Gates open when ship passing through


Tourists’ Experience along the way

Whether taking Yangtze Cruise from downstream or upstream, the Three Gorges Dam is must see and the ship lock is the essential part to visit when ship cross the dam. If you are interested about how the ship lock and gates function, why not to take some time to view the process and gain more unique experience.

Cruise Route Time to cross Ship Lock Duration Overall Feelings
Upstream In the late afternoon 3-4 hours The whole shipping is quite steady, and doesn’t bother tourists to view the scenery at all. Meanwhile, tourists can see the how ship locks works clearly.
Downstream In the evening 3-4 hours Stay in your cabin, you can hardly feel any shaking when passing through the gates, so don’t worry about your sleeping or other onboard activities.
Cruises enter the ship lock

Cruises enter the Ship Lock

Ship Lock view

View the Ship Lock


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