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.
The second set of pictures I took yesterday afternoon, in unseasonably warm sunshine, was from the marina at Shotley. This is a peninsula between the rivers Orwell and Stour, and within a few hundred yards of the shore here you have Harwich, to the south, which is a major ferry port for European destinations, and Felixstowe to the north, which is one of the largest ports in Europe. It being a Sunday afternoon, the port was relatively quiet, with two large container ships already berthed, Maersk Klaipeda and MSC Rossella, and one which arrived whilst I was shooting, Maersk Taurus [which is the one in the last picture].
It is quite interesting watching the movement of these vast ships – the port is now able to handle the largest container ships in the world – because although the Taurus has a weight of 94,000 tonnes, it was pirouetted 180 degrees by two little tugs in about five minutes, and looked for a moment rather graceful. The other interesting thing about shooting a large port like this is the sheer vastness of the machines. As well as the ships, which are incomparably large, the cranes also dwarf everything around them. Their drivers sit a hundred feet above the ground in a glass cab, sliding back and forth over the dock and then over the ship as they move the containers.