€92 million lock opens for Euro traffic

Minden lock adds a new dimension to European waterway transport  (Photo: WSV) Minden lock adds a new dimension to European waterway transport (Photo: WSV)

A giant new river lock which can handle modern river and canal motor ships up to 110m in length and will significantly improve European waterway transport, has been inaugurated on the River Weser near Minden in northern Germany.

The new 139m long Weserschleuse Minden is located where the busy Mittelland Canal crosses the River Weser via an aqueduct, as it also does the River Elbe further east at Magdeburg.

The 326 km Mittelland Canal , Germany’s  principal east-west waterway, links Berlin in the east with the Rhine in the east, via the Dortmund Ems Canal and the industrial Ruhr. Its significance however goes far beyond Germany because it also links France, Switzerland and the Benelux countries with Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic Sea.

Now, with the completion of the Weserschleuse Minden, another significant commercial link for modern waterway traffic has been created: between the canal and the Weser.

The new lock can handle big modern inland motor ships of up to 110m in length and 11.45m wide drawing 2.5m. For the first time ships of this size can now sail on the Central Weser and this in turn means dramatically improved links between Bremen/ Bremerhaven – Germany’s second biggest universal seaport complex down the Weser on the North Sea – and the German and European hinterland canal and river network.

The new lock has taken more than seven years to build and boasts a useable length of 139m and a clear width of 12.5m. It replaces the 85m long and 10m wide Schachtschleuse Minden, which runs alongside the new facility on its western side. The old lock was originally built more than 100 years ago as part of the construction of the Mittelland Canal and was in its time regarded as a major technical achievement.

The new lock has a gate depth of 4m, an average water fall distance of 13.3m and measures 23.8m from chamber floor to rim. Water requirement per ship sluice is put at 25,400m3 and there are three large additional water basins which store some 60% of the water used for every downhill sluice and return it to the main chamber for the next upstream sluice operation. It is expected to handle some 4,000 lock operations a year.

Construction began in April 2010 and involved, among other things, the removal of 300,000 m3 of earth and the driving of 5,500 m2 of pile wall. Some 100,000m3 of solid concrete were laid along with12,000 tons of concrete reinforcements and 441 tons of steel closures were installed.

Responsible for the construction work was Johann Bunte Bauunternehmung along with various sub-contractors, among them Klass Siemens Stahbau which was responsible for the hydraulic steelworks and ABB which handled the electro-technology.

By Tom Todd

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