Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Germany’s tallest boat lift opened on October 4 in Niederfinow, near Berlin. It replaces one built in 1934, that was the world’s biggest at the time – a title that has since gone to a lift at China’s Three Gorges Dam. Photo: AFP

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”.

The lift, around 50km (30 miles) from Berlin, takes a few minutes to hoist boats over a height of 36 metres – allowing them to travel smoothly from the Polish port of Szczecin to the German capital.
The new boat lift on the Oder-Havel Canal near Niederfinow in the German state of Brandenburg, during its inauguration on October 4, 2022. Photo: AFP

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 first boats get hoisted up by the new lift. Photo: AFP

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.

People view the lift’s inauguration from a boat on the Oder-Havel Canal. Photo: AFP
The old structure was the tallest boat lift in the world when it was built. That record has long since fallen to a mighty lift at the Three Gorges Dam, in China, which raises and lowers boats over a distance of 113 metres.

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.