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World’s Largest Ship Elevator Completes China’s Three Gorges Project

Sept. 20, 2016 (EIRNS)—Xinhua reports that the trial operation of the permanent, vertical ship elevator at the Three Gorges Dam marks the completion of the Three Gorges project, 22 years after construction began.

The state-owned China Three Gorges Corp. says that the elevator, designed by a Chinese and German team, is the largest and most sophisticated in the world. It is designed to raise small and medium-sized ships (with a maximum displacement of about 3,000 tons) 370 feet to continue their course upstream. The elevator chamber contains a pool of water 393 feet long, 59 feet wide, and 11.5 feet deep.

The elevator complements the five-tier ship lock next to the dam, which is also the world’s largest, with a cargo throughput that increased almost 350% between 2004 (34.31 million tonnes) and 2015 (119.6 million tonnes). The elevator will cut the transit time for small and medium ships, from 3-4 hours to less than one hour, thus helping to boost the Yangtze’s shipping capacity, which has already been growing dramatically.

Before the dam and the reservoir, the upper reaches of the Yangtze River were too narrow, shallow, and dangerous for big vessels. The dam greatly improved navigation by lifting water levels on the upper reaches and releasing stored flood waters during the dry season. The result was an 800% increase in cargo ships passing through the locks between 2004 and 2015, so that in 2015 almost 55,000 cargo ships passed through the locks, carrying more than 300,000 tonnes of goods. All this will be further accelerated by the new elevator, and contribute to the expansion and improvement of the Yangtze River economic belt, part of China’s national strategy.

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