Boat lift

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A boat lift, ship lift, or lift lock is a machine for transporting boats between water at two different elevations, and is an alternative to the canal lock and the canal inclined plane.

It may be either vertically moving, like the ship lifts in Germany, Belgium, the lift at "Les Fontinettes" in France or the Anderton boat lift in England, or rotational, like the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland.


A precursor to the canal boat lift, able to move full-sized canal boats, was the tub boat lift used in mining, able to raise and lower the 2.5 ton tub boats then in use. An experimental system was in use on the Churprinz mining canal in Halsbrücke near Dresden. It lifted boats 7 metres using a moveable hoist rather than caissons. The lift operated between 1789 and 1868,[1] and for a period of time after its opening engineer James Green reporting that five had been built between 1796 and 1830. He credited the invention to Dr James Anderson of Edinburgh.[2]

The idea of a boat lift for canals can be traced back to a design based on balanced water filled caissons in Erasmus Darwin's Commonplace Book (page 58-59) dated 1777–1778[3]

In 1796 an experimental balance lock was designed by James Fussell and constructed at Mells on the Dorset and Somerset Canal, though this project was never completed.[2] A similar design was used for lifts on the tub boat section of the Grand Western Canal entered into operation in 1835 becoming the first non experimental boat lifts in Britain.[4] and pre-dating the Anderton Boat Lift by 40 years.

In 1904 the Peterborough Lift Lock designed by Richard Birdsall Rogers opened in Canada. This 19.8 metres (65 ft) high lift system is operated by gravity alone, with the upper bay of the two bay system loaded with an additional 30 cm of water as to give it greater weight.

Before the construction of the Three Gorges Dam Ship Lift, the highest boat lift, with a 73.15 metre height difference and European Class IV (1350 tonne) capacity, was the Strépy-Thieu boat lift in Belgium opened in 2002.

The ship lift at the Three Gorges Dam, completed in January 2016, is 113 meters high and able to lift vessels of up to 3,000 tons displacement.

The boat lift at Longtan is reported to be even higher in total with a maximum vertical lift of 179m in two stages when completed.[5]

Selected lift locks[edit]

Notable lift locks — ordered by size
Name Location Opened Displacement Dimensions Vertical lift Cycle time Notes
Three Gorges dam ship lift China 2016 3000 tons 280 x 35 x 5 metres 113 metres 30–40 minutes
Krasnoyarsk Dam ship lift Russia 1982 1500 tons 90 x 18 x 2.2 metres 104 metres 90 minutes
Ronquières inclined plane lift Belgium 1968 1350 tons 91 x 12 x 3.7 metres 67.73 metres 22 minutes [6]
Strépy-Thieu boat lift Belgium 2002 1350 tons 112 x 12 metres x 3.35 metres 73.15 metres 7 minutes
Scharnebeck twin ship lift Germany 1974 1350 tons 105.4 x 15.8 x 3.4 metres 38 metres 3 minutes
Niederfinow boat lift Germany 1934 85 x 12 x 2.5 metres 36 metres 20 minutes
Peterborough lift lock Canada 1904 1300 tons 42.7 x 10.1 x 2.1 metres 19.8 metres 10 minutes
Kirkfield Lift Lock Canada 1907 1300 tons 42.7 x 10.1 x 2.1 metres 14.9 metres 10 minutes
Rothensee boat lift Germany 1938 1000 tons 85 x 12.2 x ? metres 16 metres 20 minutes
Falkirk Wheel UK 2002 600 tons 21.33 x 6.0 x 1.37 metres 24 metres 4 minutes
Henrichenburg boat lift Germany 1962 600 tons 67 x 8.2 x 2 metres 14 metres 25 minutes
Danjiangkou Dam China ? 450 tons
Geheyan Dam ship lift China 1987 300 tons
Longtan Dam ship lift China 2009? 250 tons 40 x 10.8 x 1.8 metres 68.5 metres claimed to be the "fastest ship-lift in the world"
Canal du Centre boat lifts Belgium 1888–1917 360 tons/350 tons 40.1 x 5.06 x 2 metres 16.93 - 15.4 metres three lifts each 16.93 m high plus one 15.4 m high
Fontinettes boat lift France 1881–88 300 tons 39 x 5.2 x 2 metres 13.13 metres 5 minutes
Anderton boat lift UK 1875 250 tons 22.9 x 4.7 x 2.9 metres 15.25 metres

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Charles Hadfield World Canals: Inland Navigation Past and Present Page 71 ISBN 0-7153-8555-0
  2. ^ a b The Canals of Southwest England Charles Hadfield Page 104 ISBN 0-7153-8645-X
  3. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  4. ^ The Canals of Southwest England Charles Hadfield Page 109 ISBN 0-7153-8645-X
  5. ^ "Long Tan Hydroelectric Dam". 2007. Retrieved 2010-05-20.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "The inclined plane of Ronquières". Archived from the original on 11 June 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tew, David (1984). Canal Inclines and Lifts. Sutton Books. ISBN 0-86299-031-9.
  • Uhlemann, Hans-Joachim (2002). Canal lifts and inclines of the world (English Translation ed.). Internat. ISBN 0-9543181-1-0.

External links[edit]