New German boat lift takes bow

Photos/ AFP-Jiji
New ship lifts on the Oder-Havel Canal near Niederfinow in Brandenburg, Germany, on Oct. 4, left, and an interior view of the new ship lift; an aerial view shows the old.

NIEDERFINOW, Germany (AFP-Jiji) — Germany’s whopping new boat lift could lug the weight of 50 blue whales over a stretch of canal between Poland and Berlin.

The powerful concrete elevator — the country’s largest — is designed for big modern barges, and began welcoming ships for the first time on Oct. 5.

The engineering feat in Niederfinow, eastern Germany, measures 133 by 46 meters and stands 55 meters tall.

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing said it was “taking inland waterway transport into the future.”

The lift, around 50 kilometers from Berlin, takes a few minutes to hoist boats over a height of 36 meters — allowing them to travel smoothly from the Polish port of Szczecin to the German capital.

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 an old one in the same location, commissioned in 1934 but no longer sufficient for modern maritime traffic.

The new version is 30 meters 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 on Oct. 4.

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 airport, which finally opened in 2020.

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 meters.

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.

Boats are hoisted up to the next level on inauguration day; an aerial view shows the old.