The World’s Largest Shiplift Is an Impressive Feat of Engineering

The Goupitan shiplift in China’s Guizhou Province is the largest shiplift in the world. It can lift ships with a displacement of up to 500 tons to a height of 199 m (653 ft).

Dams are characterized by a drastic change in water levels and that makes navigating large waterways a daunting task. Luckily, advanced technology makes things a lot easier, and the Goupitan shiplift incorporated into the Goupitan Hydropower Station is a perfect example. Completed in 2021, it consists of three different hydraulic lifts connected by navigable water channels with a total distance of 2.3 kilometers. Located on the Wu River, a tributary of the Yangtze River in Guizhou, the Goupitan shiplift is one of the world’s most intriguing technological marvels, one that makes shipping along the waterway so much easier.

Each of the three lifts that make up the Goupitan shiplift complex has a lifting capacity of 1,800 tons and a lifting speed of 8 meters per minute. The Changjiang Institute of Survey decided to split the system into three different stages in order to maximize boat transportation efficiency by reducing the risk of congestion. As soon as a ship gets past the first lift, another can be lifted, while the first ship continues its journey through the second and third elevators.


Each elevator consists of two rows of hoist cable drums and the gearboxes are positioned over both sides of the boat-lifting reservoir. According to Stromag, a partner brand in the development of the world’s largest shiplift, “this design provides a hoisting speed of approximately 8 meters per minute, thus can raise or descend a 500-tonne vessel (the estimated average weight of passenger boats) in 10 minutes, slashing the travel time past the dam.”


The previous record holder for ‘largest shiplift’ was located at the Chinese Three Gorges hydroelectric complex. It was only 14 meters shorter than Goupitan.