Lift lock

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(CC) Photo: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT
Strépy-Bracquegnies shiplift, said to be the largest shiplift in Europe.


(CC) Photo: Sean McClean
The Fallkirk Wheel, a boat lift in the United Kingdom.
(CC) Photo: Peter Lenardon
The Peterborough Lift Locks, on the Trent-Severn Canal, Ontario, Canada.

Lift locks, also known as ship lifts or boat lifts, are an alternative to conventional canal locks.

Lift locks are a kind of elevator for vessels. In operation, vessels proceed from a river or canal into a basin or caisson, doors then close, and the entire basin is raised or lowered. When it reaches the level of the other section of the canal or river doors open, and the vessel can proceed on its voyage.

Among the advantages lift locks hold over traditional canal locks are that a single lift lock can raise vessels over a vertical distance that would require multiple canal locks. Conventional canal locks require using large amounts of water, because the entire lock has to be filled every time a vessel traverses the lock. Most lift locks do not require moving water from the upper level.[1]

Many lift locks use a pair of counter-balanced basins. Some of the larger lift locks, like the shiplift at the Three Gorges Dam, in China, and the shiplift at Strépy-Thieu in Belgium, on the other hand, have just a single basin, counter-balanced with a conventional counter-weight, like a regular elevator.

Notable lift locks - ordered by size
location displacement[2] dimensions vertical lift cycle time
Three Gorges Dam, China 3000 tons 280 x 35 meters x 5 metres 113 30-40 minutes (planned)
Strépy-Thieu, Belgium 1350 tons 73.15 metres 112 x 12 metres x 3.35 metres 7 minutes
Scharnebeck, Lüneburg, Germany 1350 tons 105.4 x 15.8 x 3.4 metres 38 metres 3 minutes
Peterborough, Ontario 1300 tons 42.7 x 10.1 x 2.1 metres 19.8 metres 10 minutes
Kirkfield, Ontario 1300 tons 42.7 x 10.1 x 2.1 metres 14.9 metres 10 minutes
Falkirk Wheel, United Kingdom 600 tons - 35 metres 4 minutes
Danjiangkou Dam, China 450 tons
Geheyan Dam, China 300 tons
Longtan Dam, China 250 tons 40×10.8×1.8 metres 68.5 metres claimed to be the "fastest ship-lift in the world"
Anderton Boat Lift, United Kingdom 250 tons 22.9 x 4.7 x 2.9 metres 15.25


  1. The Kirkfield and Peterborough lift locks on the Trent-Severn canal in Ontario are water-powered.
  2. Some lift locks seem to list the tonnage of the basin, not the tonnage of the maximum sized vessel they can hold.