China's Dams

Ship lift at Three Gorges Dam, China − design of steel structures

(June 18, 2009) A detailed look at the colossal ship lift proposed for the Three Gorges Dam: a structure so enormous in dimension and complex in its engineering, it effectively represents a ‘moveable building’.

steelconstructionAuthors: Jan Akkermann, Thomas Runte, Dorothea Krebs*

Published by Steel Construction, Volume 2, Issue 2, pages 61–71, June 2009


The vertical ship lift at the Three Gorges Dam in China will consist of a reinforced concrete structure with an internal steel ship chamber. The chamber will be a self-supporting orthotropic plate structure, continuously suspended from ropes with counterweights. Its components, such as segment gates, drive, horizontal guiding systems in the longitudinal and transverse directions plus locking and safety mechanisms are described here. A special procedure for reducing the tolerances of the steel components embedded in the reinforced concrete structure is explained.

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shiplock* A German joint venture, “German Design Group,” incorporating the two companies Krebs und Kiefer International and Lahmeyer International, are responsible for the general layout, intermediate and final design of the Three Gorges Dam ship lift. As part of the “Panel of Experts” the German Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau (Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute) provides consulting support to the building company. [More on this]

The Three Gorges Dam ship lift, the world’s largest,  is slated for completion in 2015.

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