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World's largest shiplift completes China's Three Gorges project

Updated: 2016-09-19 09:17

World's largest shiplift completes China's Three Gorges project

An aerial view of the shiplift which went into trial operation on Sept 18, 2016. [Photo/IC]


Boosting the shipping capacity of the Yangtze, China's longest river, was one of the three major functions of the Three Gorges project besides flood control and power generation.

Before measures to store water in the Three Gorges reservoir in 2003, the upper reaches of the Yangtze River were off-limits to big vessels as the river was too narrow and shallow, while its many winding and turbulent stretches were called "ghost gates" that were very dangerous for small boats.

The dam greatly improved the navigation on the river by lifting water levels on the upper reaches and releasing storage of flood waters to supply the middle-lower reaches during the dry season.

According to the Three Gorges Navigation Authority, as many as 150 cargo ships, carrying more than 300,000 tonnes of goods, passed through the ship lock every day in 2015, more than eight times of that in 2003 when it opened.

The demands for river transportation are likely to grow as China made the Yangtze River economic belt a focus of its national strategy in 2014 to boost concerted development in riverside provinces and municipalities.

The shiplift, however, was originally designed to mainly serve passenger and emergency cargo ships, as passenger transport was still popular on the Yangtze River at the time.

As a result of the rapid development of highways and high-speed rail across the country, hardly anyone would choose the slow waterway to get to those regions.

The shiplift would function as a good supplement to the already crammed ship lock, allowing smaller and more urgent cargo ships to pass the dam with less waiting time, according to the navigation authority.

In the meantime, the authority is making other efforts to raise the utilization efficiency of the shiplift.

"We are coordinating with transport authorities to introduce new ship standards that can fit in the shiplift, and discussing with travel agencies to design targeted products for those who are interested," said a senior official with the navigation authority. "The shiplift would add new flavor and experience to the classic Three Gorges tour."

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