The world's largest lift: lifting gigantic ships in China

China is known for its impressive engineering feats, and one of the most recent is the construction of the world's largest lift designed to lift gigantic ships. This extraordinary structure is a clear example of the Asian country's ambition and technological expertise.

A solution to congested maritime traffic

China is one of the busiest countries in the world in terms of maritime traffic. With numerous ports throughout the country, it is essential to ensure an efficient flow of cargo ships, goods and containers. The new ship lift is designed to meet this challenge and simplify maritime transport.

The lift, known as the Yanshi Ship Lift, is located in Hubei Province in central China. This monumental structure was built at the Yanshi Dam, which is already famous for being one of the largest gravity dams in China. The ship lift was built inside the dam to make the most of its impressive structure and provide a direct connection between the Yangtze River and Danjiangkou Lake.

The Three Gorges Dam, in China’s Hubei Province, represents no small engineering challenge. A 600-foot challenge, to be precise. The engineers’ ingenious (if somewhat crazy) solution to transport boats over the dam was to build the world’s largest lift. Actually, it is a kind of giant moving pool: the boats float in the water lift and remain in the water for the duration of the lift, before coming out the other side several hundred metres later.

The lift weighs 15,500 tonnes and can transport ships up to 370 feet. The lift takes 40 minutes to work its magic, drastically reducing the time needed to get around the dam (previously ships used a long diversions). This means that the dam’s transport capacity will increase by six million tonnes of goods per year, an increase that explains why someone would build an epic contraption like this.

Yanshi ship lift specifications

The Yanshi ship lift is a huge structure measuring over 110 metres in length and 35 metres in width. Its lifting capacity is astounding: it can lift cargo ships with a maximum weight of 3,000 tonnes, making it the largest ship lift in the world. This capacity makes it suitable for lifting a wide range of ships, including cargo ships, container ships and passenger vessels.

The structure is equipped with a retractable locking system that ensures maximum safety when lifting ships. In addition, the lift is designed to be highly energy efficient, minimising environmental impact.

Advantages of the Yanshi ship lift

This giant ship lift offers several significant advantages for China and its maritime transport system. Some of these include:

  1. Reduced transit time: The Yanshi ship lift significantly reduces the time it takes for ships to pass from the dam to the lake, speeding up shipping and reducing delays.
  2. Increased capacity: The ability to lift large cargo ships allows more efficient transport of goods, helping to reduce shipping costs.
  3. Lower environmental impact: The energy-efficient design helps reduce the lift’s environmental impact, promoting sustainability in maritime transport.
  4. Tourist attraction: The Yanshi ship lift has become a tourist attraction in itself, attracting visitors from all over the world to admire this extraordinary engineering achievement.


The world’s largest ship lift in China is an outstanding engineering feat that demonstrates the country’s determination to tackle complex challenges and improve its maritime transport system. This monumental structure is a testament to China’s technological prowess and engineering ambitions. With its contribution to reducing shipping delays and promoting environmental sustainability, the Yanshi ship lift has a significant impact on China and the world.