Dock (shipping)

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How the most common types of dock work. above: dry dock, below: floating dock.
Ship in floating dock
USS Wisconsin in floating dock (1952)

A dock is a facility that is used to dry ships so that work can be carried out on the underwater ship . Today, docks are mostly designed as either dry docks or floating docks . Most of the docks are operated by shipyards . Dry dock, the new construction ships will be used is known as building docks .

Dry dock

Docking of the frigate Baden-Württemberg
in Dock 17 of the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg
The frigate Baden-Württemberg is being towed over the stern of the Hamburg port by two tugs
The stern tug pulls the frigate towards Dock 17 of the Blohm and Voss shipyard. In the background in floating dock 10 the yacht Eclipse
The frigate is pulled to the right in front of the dock over the stern. The stern of North Rhine-Westphalia can be seen in the dock
The frigate Baden-Württemberg is carefully brought into the correct position
The frigate is slowly pulled into the dock by the stern tug while the head tug keeps the ship on course
The flood current of the Elbe pushes the frigate to the left bank. The free tug Bugsier 18 is now helping with docking
Both frigates, F 222 and F 223, have moored in the B&V dock. The tugs Fairplay VI and Bugsier 21 close the gate

A dry dock is a basin that can be sealed off from the rest of the water with a watertight seal. By lowering the water level in the basin, a ship located in it can be drained.

The basin is called the dock chamber , the side facing the water with the gate as a watertight seal is the dock main . The barrier gate is designed either as a lock gate or as a floodable floating body , which can be floated into a fold on the main dock to close the dry dock . Flooding causes the float to settle in front of the main dock and, after the dock chamber has been emptied, is pressed sealingly against the seam by the water in front of the dry dock. On the floor of the dock chamber there are pallets that carry the load of the ship as long as it is dry.

When docking, the ship is usually pulled into the dock chamber with winches, while tugs take care of the exact positioning on the side of the main dock . The ship is aligned and fixed in the chamber according to the dock plan before the lock gate is closed. Then the water in the dock chamber is pumped out so that the water level sinks and the ship rests on the pallets .

The load of the ship to spread evenly on the bottom of the chamber and not to overload the associations of the ship, which are bracing set up in accordance with the docking plan of the ship. To do this, the dock must be largely dry. Ships with a pronounced keel must also be supported laterally with beams against the wall of the dock chamber. After the water has been completely drained off, work on the dry ship can begin.



The dry dock was built around 200 BC. Invented in Ptolemaic Egypt . The ancient Greek author Athenaios gives a very detailed description of the structure and functionality in his work The Scholarly Meal. The fact that Athenaios wrote his report 400 years later (around AD 200) suggests that dry docks were known and used throughout ancient times.


Dry docks were used in China to build the great treasure ships around 1400 . The largest ships built were between 59 and 84 meters long and are said to have had 9 masts.


The oldest German dry dock was built in Bremerhaven. The first facility was created by Johann Lange from 1837 to 1840 . After 1860, his son Carl Lange added a second facility to this dry dock.

Another dry dock was built between 1845 and 1846 in the F. W. Wencke shipyard . The Wencke Dock had wooden dock walls and was 52 m long and 32 m wide with an entrance width of 11 m. The son-in-law of the shipyard's founder, Albert Rosenthal, added a second 81 m long chamber to the facility in 1860, whereby the common entrance was widened to 15 m. The wooden walls were later replaced by those made of limestone and brick. Remains of this 4.8 m deep complex are still preserved today ( 53 ° 32 ′ 22.9 ″  N , 8 ° 35 ′ 4.9 ″  E ) and are under monument protection.

Dry docks were also built at Schau & Oltmanns (1856) and Hermann Friedrich Ulrichs (1865) in the years mentioned. In 1871 the Lloyd shipyard built a double dock.

List of selected dry docks

Names Length (m) Width (m) place country Coordinates operator Remarks
Harland & Wolff
Main Dock
556 93 Belfast United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 54 ° 36 ′ 29 ″  N , 5 ° 54 ′ 2 ″  W. Harland & Wolff largest European dry dock
dry dock 8a
426 88 Kiel GermanyGermany Germany ( 54 ° 19 ′ 17 ″  N , 10 ° 9 ′ 14 ″  E ) German Naval Yards Kiel
Wadan Yards
dock hall
340 67 Wismar GermanyGermany Germany ( 53 ° 53 ′ 54.8 ″  N , 11 ° 26 ′ 22.7 ″  E ) Nordic Yards Wismar Dock hall, height: 13 m
Meyer Papenburg building
dock II
482 45 Papenburg GermanyGermany Germany ( 53 ° 5 ′ 48.1 ″  N , 7 ° 21 ′ 24.8 ″  E ) Meyer shipyard largest covered building dock in the world. Dimensions of Dock Hall IV: length: 504 meters, width: 125 meters, height: 75 meters
Blohm + Voss
dry dock Elbe 17
351 59 Hamburg GermanyGermany Germany ( 53 ° 32 ′ 30 ″  N , 9 ° 57 ′ 47 ″  E ) Blohm + Voss
Lloyd Werft
Kaiserdock II
335 40 Bremerhaven GermanyGermany Germany ( 53 ° 34 ′ 3.3 ″  N , 8 ° 33 ′ 26 ″  E ) Lloyd shipyard
Dock 3
420 80 Brest FranceFrance France ( 48 ° 23 ′ 3 ″  N , 4 ° 27 ′ 12 ″  W ) Ladies Ship Repair Brest
Louis Joubert lock

Normadie Dock

350 50 Saint-Nazaire FranceFrance France ( 47 ° 17 ′  N , 2 ° 12 ′  W ) Port of Nantes-Saint-Nazaire Lock that also serves as a dry dock. See also Operation Chariot .
Dubai Drydocks
Dock 3
521 100 Dubai United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates ( 25 ° 15 ′ 0 ″  N , 55 ° 16 ′ 2 ″  E ) Dubai drydocks
Newport News Shipbuilding
Dry Dock Dec.
661 76 Newport News United StatesUnited States United States ( 37 ° 0 ′ 3 ″  N , 76 ° 26 ′ 51 ″  W ) Newport News Shipbuilding Can be divided into two chambers, each of which can accommodate a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier

Floating dock

A floating dock is a floating, submersible pontoon that can be used to pick up ships for maintenance work on the dry-exposed hull.

To dock a ship, the flood tanks of the floating dock are filled with water so that the entire dock is immersed deeper until the dock floor has reached the required depth. Then the ship is pulled into the dock with winches and / or tugs , positioned and moored. The dock is raised again by the subsequent pumping out of the flood tanks and the ship is exposed on the pallen above the waterline.



A forerunner of today's floating dock can be found in a small Italian book called Descrittione dell'artifitiosa machina , which was published in Venice in 1560. In the booklet, an unknown author explains a new method for salvaging a ship that has run aground and asks for the privilege of using its construction. An attached woodcut shows a ship flanked to starboard and port by two large floating scaffolds that are joined together to form a roof over the ship. A series of ropes that are lowered from the roof lift the ship into an upright position.

In 1691, the Danish admiral Henrik Span constructed a floating dock, as can be seen in the following medal. The inscription on the reverse translates as follows: “In 1691 AD, under the rule of the best King Christian V, the skill and diligence of Henrik Span invented the ship's engine, with the help of which old and long-term vehicles were broken Ships can be repaired and, as it were, in new condition, with considerable savings in time and effort, and to such an extent an amenity that nature had denied was provided by technology. "


A wooden floating dock was put into service in 1858 at the Stülcken shipyard in Hamburg. The floating dock in its current form was developed in 1893 by the American shipbuilder Gilbert. The first dock of this type was in operation until 1911.


A special form of floating dock, which is currently used in inland shipping, is the stevedock, in which only the bow or stern of the ship is lifted out of the water in order to enable repairs to steering systems, bow thrusters or propellers.

Similar facilities

Dock ship Blue Marlin transports a Sea-Based X-Band Radar

A dock ship refers to a transport ship that can lower its loading area below the surface of the water to take up floating loads; the transport takes place after the loading area with the load has been raised again.

In the Netherlands , before the Noordhollandsch Canal was built, a similar device called the ship camel was used to transport large ships to the port of Amsterdam . The facility was also used in other ports to enable ships with too great a draft to dock.


  • Heinrich Schoof: The floating dock. Its development from the beginning to the present . Oceanum Verlag, Wiefelstede 2019, ISBN 978-3-86927-429-4 .

Web links

Commons : Docks  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Dock  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Athenaios : The deipnosophists, or, Banquet of the learned of Athenaeus . Ed .: CD Yonge. Volume I, Book V. Henry G. Bohn, London, p. 325 ( online [accessed August 25, 2012]).
  2. a b The other shipyards on the Geeste. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on October 31, 2013 ; Retrieved June 25, 2013 .
  3. The history of the Wencke Dock: Shipbuilding at the economic nucleus of the city. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on October 29, 2013 ; Retrieved June 25, 2013 .
  4. Harland & Wolff. ( Memento of February 19, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) p. 11, accessed on June 16, 2012.
  5. Capacity docks . Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft
  6. Nordic Yards: short profile Wismar. ( Memento of January 30, 2013 in the web archive ) accessed on June 16, 2012.
  7. Meyer-Werft builds largest dock hall in the world . Spiegel Online , January 18, 2008.
  8. ^ Shipbuilding in Papenburg . ( Memento from March 15, 2013 in the Internet Archive ; PDF; 4.9 MB) Flyer from Meyer Werft; Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  9. ^ Expansion of Hall VI - Building Dock II - Meyer Werft Papenburg. Retrieved August 25, 2012 .
  10. Blohm + Voss Repair Docking Capacities . ( Memento of July 8, 2011 in the Internet Archive ; PDF; 5.8 MB) accessed on June 15, 2012.
  11. Shipyard layout . ( Memento from May 21, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven; Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  12. a b Ladies Shiprepair Brest . ( Memento from February 22, 2013 in the web archive ) Ladies; Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  13. Yard Map . Drydocks World; Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  14. Facilities & Capabilites . Newport News Shipbuilding; Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  15. ^ George Sarton: Floating Docks in the Sixteenth Century . In: Isis. Volume 36, No. 3/4. (Oct. 1946), pp. 153–154 (153)
  16. Willi Mohrs: New stevendock puts on . ( [accessed on October 9, 2018]).