Port of Felixstowe pt II: Wheels and Concrete
Having seen the shipping side of the docks, I have also explored the ‘other’ side, which is the equally interesting ‘nuts and bolts’ of how the port works. If you aren’t familiar with Felixstowe or the East of England, then you may not know that the port is woefully poorly connected to the rest of the country. Basically, there is one trunk road, known as the A14, which runs pretty much from the dock gate to Birmingham in the centre of the country. It is hopelessly over capacity, such that traffic often grinds to a halt at busy times. You would imagine that rail would also be a good way of moving the vast numbers of containers that we saw in the previous post – considering that one large ship can now carry some 10,000 20 foot containers, that is potentially 5,000 truck journeys, or a fraction of that number of trains. But the rail network is not great either, so there is something of a bottleneck for freight leaving Felixstowe to its destinations.
These photos were taken at various places in or near to the docks, and represent some of the more interesting things I found as far as moving the goods around is concerned.
Above: trucks lay waiting to be called to pick up their loads. There is massive security at the port, and drivers must produce a biometric ID card at the gates or they are denied access.
Above: ‘The Grid’ – the containers come off the ships and are stacked on a 3-dimensional grid system, which you can see marked on the ground. Each container is allocated an ‘X’, ‘Y’ and vertical ‘Z’ position so it can be found easily to be loaded for its onward journey. Did you know that the docks sometimes close when it snows? The reason is that the snow covers the grid markings, and the crane drivers cannot see which containers are which!!
Above: Stacked ‘Short Sea’ containers [denoting that their journey is short as opposed to from the other side of the world].
Above: a fork lift which can lift a loaded 20 foot container, which could weigh 20 odd tons.
Above: There are all manner of ageing vehicles which are only used within the yards, and which are known as ‘shunters’. This tired-looking one must have retired from the open road many years ago.
Above: Abandoned? This has been dropped off whilst another container is emptied, to be picked up again later.
Above: I for one would not like this to be my place of work, as I fear heights!
Above: Waiting seems to be a large part of the job, for the ships’ crew and everybody else reliant on them.