New boat lift on a canal linking Berlin and Poland is an engineering feat that can carry ‘the weight of 50 blue whales’
- Opened on October 4, the elevator on the Oder-Havel Canal hoists boats up 36 metres to enable travel from the Polish port of Szczecin to the German capital
- The lift replaces one built in 1934, which was the tallest in the world at the time of completion. That title is now held by a lift at China’s Three Gorges Dam
Germany’s whopping new boat lift could lug the weight of 50 blue whales above a stretch of canal that lies between Poland and Berlin, although it is still no challenge in terms of world records to a lift in China.
The powerful concrete elevator – Germany’s largest – is designed for big, modern barges, and began welcoming ships for the first time on October 4.
The engineering feat in Niederfinow, eastern Germany, measures 133 by 46 metres (440 by 150 feet) and stands 55 metres tall. German transport minister Volker Wissing said it was “taking inland waterway transport into the future”.
With its mesh of metal cables, the huge concrete structure rises up against a backdrop of green fields by the Oder-Havel Canal, in the state of Brandenburg.
The lift was built to replace one commissioned in 1934 that is no longer sufficient for modern maritime traffic.
The new version is 30 metres longer than its predecessor and can carry nearly twice as much weight – equivalent to “50 adult blue whales or 1,600 elephants”, Wissing said at the official opening.
Building the structure was not plain sailing, though – the process was delayed eight years by late deliveries, a supplier going bankrupt, worker shortages and the coronavirus pandemic.
Local media dubbed the project the maritime BER, a reference to Berlin’s long-delayed Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport, which finally opened in 2020.
Niederfinow’s old lift will continue operating until 2025, and live on as the main tourist attraction in the rural village of around 600 inhabitants.