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Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift, Ship Lift & Ship Lock Difference
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Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift

Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift, also called Three Gorges Dam Ship Elevator, is not only the largest but also the most sophisticated ship lift in the world.

Map of Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift

  • The vertical-hoisting “elevator” can lift cruises/vessels up or down 370 feet (about 113 meters) to pass Three Gorges Dam across Yangtze River in Hubei Province;
  • 550-feet-high (about 169 meters) structure can lift cruises/vessels carrying weight of up to 3,000 tonnes;
  • The elevator cuts down the time it takes to pass the dam to around 40 minutes compared to the four hours it takes to pass via the Five-stage Ship Lock.

    Ship Lift VS Ship Lock

    Ship lift VS Ship Lock

    The maximum difference between the upstream and downstream water level is 113 meters. Now, shipping traffic can not only pass the dam by means of a two-lane, five chamber lock chain, but also by the vertical ship lift.

    There is a saying: “Ship lock for large vessels and ship lift for small vessels”. Ship locks were like stairs. Walking up or down stairs is certainly much slower than taking the lift. That’s to say, large-sized vessels still need to spend about 4 hours passing through the dam’s five lock while mostly small and medium-sized vessels, with a dead weight under 3000 tonnes, can get across the dam by ship lift in 40 minutes.

    Apart from faster speed, the ship lift is also safer. It could be dangerous if the ship catches fire in ship locks. But on the lift, with its open space, the chance for such a situation developing is much smaller.

    How does ship lift work?

    Three Gorges Dam Ship lift Sightseeing Boat
    Sightseeing Boat to Sail through Three Gorges Dam Ship lift

    When a ship heads upstream (for travelers, it usually means pass through Three Gorges Dam from Yichang to Chongqing), first, it has to enter the ship chamber from the lower gate, then the lower gate is closed and the ship chamber ascends through climbing device. When the water level in the ship chamber is the same with that of upper part of the reservoir, the upper gate is opened and the ship can sail into upper bay. If a ship heads downstream (for travelers, it usually means pass through Three Gorges Dam from Chongqing to Yichang), the procedure is just opposite.


    How does ship lock work?

    Five Stage Ship Locks

    When a ship heads upstream, it first has to get into the fifth chamber. Close the fifth chamber and make the water level in fifth chamber the same with the fourth chamber. Then, open the gate between fifth chamber and fourth chamber and ship goes into the fourth chamber. Follow the step, the ship can cross the five chambers by passing six gates. If a ship heads downstream, the procedure is just opposite.


    Know More about Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift Structure

    Three Gorges Dam Ship lift Structure

    Designed according to German industrial standards, Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift is the last component in the Three Gorges Dam complex and mainly consists of an upper bay, an upper gate, a ship chamber, a lower gate and a lower bay. With a lifting height of up to 113 meters, internal dimensions of 120×18×3.5m (useable space) and moving mass of approx. 34000 tonnes, the vertical ship lift is the largest of its kind in the world.

    Vertical Section of Three Gorges Dam Ship lift
    Vertical Section of Three Gorges Dam Ship lift

    Horizontal Section of Three Gorges Dam Ship lift
    Horizontal Section of Three Gorges Dam Ship lift

    The main components of the structure are four 169m high reinforced concrete towers. The four towers are built on a continuous foundation slab, directly on granite rock. Between the towers the steel ship chamber, which is 132m long, is suspended from 256 ropes that are connected with counterweights via 128 double rope pulleys at the tops of the towers. Each pair of towers on the long sides of the ship chamber is flanked by shear walls. The walls and towers are connected by coupling beams distributed evenly over the height. Two bridges between the towers are located above the ship chamber, one for the central control room and one for a visitor platform.

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