Yangtze Cruise Inquiry Contact us

You are here: Home » Yangtze Travel Guide » Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift

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.
  • Travelers can personally reveal and have a better know about the last mystery of Three Gorges Dam Project by experiencing the latest construction of Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift. In the whole year of 2019, Victoria Cruises, Century Cruises, Yangtze Gold Cruises and Changjiang Cruises will offer optional experience to sail through the new Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift both for downstream and upstream. It definitely should be a fresh and special experience for travelers to Three Gorges Dam.

    Top Yangtze River Ships to Experience Ship Lift


    How Yangtze Cruise Performs Ship Lift?

    Travelers can experience ship lift at Three Gorges Dam with all the Yangtze River cruise ships no matter you take 4 Days & 3 Nights downstream cruise from Chongqing to Yichang or 5 Days & 4 Nights upstream cruise from Yichang to Chongqing. The following is Victoria Cruises’ detailed arrangement to sail through Ship Lift. You may check it for reference. (Please note that the time arrangement of different cruise companies may vary based on the real situation, but experience will be the same.)

    For downstream travelers:

    Map of Chongqing Yichang for Three Gorges Dam Ship lift

    Your ship will dock at Maoping Port on the last day of your downstream cruise. You’ll change onto a sightseeing boat sailing down to Three Gorges Dam Site to pass through the Ship Lift (optional experience for extra pay). When the sightseeing boat comes out the ship chamber, it will continue sailing to the lower part of Yangtze River and usually docks at Huanglingmiao Port. Here, you’ll change to a sightseeing bus heading to Three Gorges Dam Site for further sightseeing. After the dam visiting, the cruise company will provide transfer service sending travelers to Yichang Three Gorges Center Cruise Terminal (near Yichang No. 9 pier which is across from Wanda Plaza; about 50 km for 1~1.5 hours’ bus ride). Travelers will arrive in Yichang downtown area around 13:30. (Note: We advise you take a train after 15:30 and take a flight after 16:00).

    For upstream travelers:

    Map of Yichang Chongqing for Three Gorges Dam Ship lift

    For travelers who take an upstream cruise from Yichang to Chongqing, you should arrive at Yichang Three Gorges Center Cruise Terminal or Yichang East Railway Station during 16:00~21:00 on the first day and take the bus arranged by the cruise companies heading to Maoping Port (about 50 km for 1~1.5 hours’ bus ride) for embarkation. On the second day after lunch around 14:00, you’ll first visit Three Gorges Dam Site and then around 16:30 switch to a sightseeing boat at Huanglingmiao Port to sail through Ship Lift (optional experience for extra pay). Get back to your ship at 18:00 and continue your ship to Chongqing.

    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.

    Three Gorges Dam Ship Locks Unavailable in 2019: as the national policy of “the Belt and Road” to develop the economy of the Yangtze River region, the Three Gorges Dam ship locks is only accessible for cargo ships, so all commercial passenger ships will not able to pass the ship locks in the 2019. However, you could still appreciate the ship locks or take the new experience of the amazing Three Gorges Dam ship lift at the Three Gorges dam site. Feel free to ask our travel consultant if you have any questions.

    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.

    www.yangtze-river-cruises.com will keep updating the latest Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift information and news. For more questions and help, please feel free to contact our professional cruise agents who are here ready to help you at any time!

    Not easy to find the right cruise ship/itinerary for you? Please contact one of our Yangtze cruise specialists to save your time and money. Click the right button to send an online inquiry and we will get back to you within 0.5~23.5 hours.

    Your can rely on their expert knowledge and endless enthusiasm!

    Have a question? Get answers from our travel experts or guests