The "Nordschleuse" lock

The extended Kaiserhafen basin (today Kaiserhafen II to III) was constructed between 1892 and 1897. But in the long term, it proved inadequate for the growing transportation demands. So the State of Bremen provided an extension area north of the Kaiserhafen as early as 1903 to 1905. A new lock was also planned, which was originally designed with a length of 250 metres, later 350 metres. In 1914, work began, but due to the war, it had to be discontinued in 1916.

When the Columbus pier was being constructed from 1924 to 1928, planning was resumed, also with a view to the commissioning of the two 50 000-tonnes ocean liners BREMEN and EUROPA (1929/30) of the North German Lloyd. Under the supervision of the Bremen hydraulics engineer Arnold Agatz (1891-1980), the Nordschleuse lock was constructed from 1927 to 1931. The success of this project led to his promotion to the post of head of the harbour construction department as well as a professorship at the Berlin Technical College.

The practical side of the works was carried out by a number of construction companies, mainly from the north of Germany. The foundation stone was laid on May 4th 1929. On August 10th 1931, the first ship, the liner BREMEN, passed through the lock, and this marked the opening of the facility for general use. The final cost amounted to 36.4 million Reichsmarks.

The chamber of the lock is 372 metres long, and has a total width of 60 metres, the passage itself being 45 metres wide. The depth is 14.70 metres. The enormous gates are electrically powered. The three adjacent machinery buildings were erected in the contemporary Bauhaus style in 1930 and were designed by the Bremen architect Karl Falge. Since 2002, they have been registered as listed buildings and were restored in 2003.

When completed, the Nordschleuse lock was one of the largest in the world. Not seriously damaged in World War II, it was large enough not only for legendary liners such as the BREMEN and EUROPA, but could also accommodate the bulky car carriers of today which pass through every day assisted by tugs.

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