The German city where the boats take the lift

Germany’s new boat lift could carry the weight of 50 blue whales on a stretch of canal between Poland and Berlin.

The mighty concrete lift – the largest in the country – is designed for large modern barges and began welcoming ships for the first time on Wednesday.

The feat of engineering in Niederfinow, eastern Germany, measures 133 by 46 meters (145 by 50 meters) and is 55 meters high.

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

The lift about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Berlin takes minutes to hoist the boats to a height of 36 meters, allowing them to travel smoothly from the Polish port of Szczecin to the German capital.

With its trellis of metal cables, the huge concrete structure stands against a backdrop of green fields on the banks of the Oder-Havel canal in the Land of Brandenburg.

The lift was built to replace an old one at the same location, commissioned in 1934 but no longer sufficient for modern maritime traffic.

– Tourist attraction –

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 Tuesday.

However, building the structure was not straightforward – the process was delayed eight years by late deliveries, a failing supplier, labor shortages and the coronavirus pandemic.

Local media dubbed the project the maritime BER, a reference to Berlin’s long-delayed airport that 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 China’s Three Gorges Dam, which raises and lowers boats a distance of 113 meters.

The old lift in Niederfinow will continue to operate until 2025 and will remain the main tourist attraction in the rural village of around 600 inhabitants.

ilp-fec/hmn/lcm

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