Diverse activity at Shoreham Port

Some of the larger units required specialist lifting equipment
Some of the larger units required specialist lifting equipment

HOUSING units from Latvia were among the diverse range of cargo handled at Shoreham Port this year.

The operations division deals with timber, steel, grain and recycled glass on a regular basis, as well as a range of other items.

In October, the team dispatched a delivery of housing units for a site in London.

The ‘ready to go’ units, manufactured in Latvia, were a temporary solution to the housing shortage in Battersea, designed to be stacked on site to build an accommodation block.

They had plumbing and electricity already installed and were fitted with radiators, windows and doors.

Alan Motterham, commercial/operations director at Shoreham Port, said: “The units were loaded on ships at the Port of Riga and were then shipped to us at Shoreham.

“Unloading the housing units was a complex operation for the team. Some of the larger units required specialist lifting equipment to ensure the safe removal of the units from vessel to land.

“It is always exciting to see new types of cargo enter the port and be successfully unloaded by our highly-skilled team.”

Most of the ships, as well as fishing boats and yachts, moor alongside the quays and pontoons in the impounded basin, called the canal.

This is kept at a high level so ships are always afloat and don’t need to worry about tidal movements.

To get larger visiting ships from sea level outside the locks to the high level of the canal, they need to pass through the 110-metre long Prince Philip Lock.

There is a pair of watertight gates at each end, which are opened and closed by the Harbour Radio team.

The team raises the level of the water in the lock through two tubes, known as sluices, which are two metres in diameter.

Harbour Radio has to open the sluice valves, which are like giant sliding solid gates that rise upwards to let the water through.

Once the water level in the lock is as high as the canal, the inner lock gates can be opened and the ship can be let in. The process is then reversed when a ship wants to leave.

The sluice valves and their housings are enormous steel objects, looking a bit like flattened white pumpkins, but weighing 11 tonnes and standing eight metres high in their specially-designed sluice pits.

When the valves wear out, the engineering team carries out the long process of replacing them.

At the end of October, the team swapped one of the sluice valves for a newly-refurbished spare in a number of day-long operations involving a 220-tonne crane, jacks, pulleys, pumps and the removal and fitting of more than 90, 30mm diameter bolts in oily, wet, dark and extremely tight spaces, eight metres below ground level.

Tony Parker, director of engineering said: “It’s tough, it’s dirty and it’s exhausting for the lads but the excellent planning by Carl Aichroth, combined with the superb team spirit and hard work from everyone made it a great pleasure to observe.”

Smaller craft use the Prince George Lock, with a string of fishing trawlers regularly witnessed by commuters along the A259.

They use the inner layby and Fishersgate Terminal in the canal, often mooring there when the weather is unsettled.

Throughout the year, many fishing vessels enter Shoreham, where fishermen have access to fresh water, as well as the opportunity to dispatch some of their catch to fishmongers and processing plants.

Senior lockmaster Riley Johnston said trawlers from Scotland and Ireland, for example, made the most of the scallop season, which is at its peak from late September to the end of October.

“The marine department are on hand to offer a 24/7 service to visiting vessels, ensuring safe access into the port and a high level of care when they are here,” he added.