‘Almost one million containers pass through our port each year,’ says Neil Bellinger, workshop and mobile equipment manager, DP World London Gateway, ‘As a result, our schedules are tightly packed each day – there’s little room for any period of downtime.’
DP World London Gateway is among one of the 120 commercial container ports in the UK.1 As with its counterparts, the port is in constant operation – 24 hours, 7 days a week – to meet the sizable demand for handling container traffic, loading and unloading ships and transferring cargo to lorries or trains for onward transportation.
The common fire risks facing ports and docks
The wide range of operations and frequent handling of raw and bulk materials means ports and docks are vulnerable to many different fire risks, including:
With thousands of lorries passing through ports each day, each delivering and collecting produce, materials are often stored on-site – some for an extended amount of time. If storage is not managed carefully, it can pose a significant fire risk.
Containers enclosing flammable materials, for example, should be stored separately from other, non-flammable, materials to mitigate the potential risk of fire.
Loose materials, such as biomass or wood chippings, are often stored at ports whilst awaiting onward travel. These materials have the potential to self-combust during transportation and storage, and therefore should be closely monitored and handled safely.
Some risks within storage may go unrecognised, as the frequent transport of sealed shipping containers can leave ports susceptible to hidden fire risks. Monitoring materials that are passing through the port is vital to ensure the appropriate measures can be implemented to mitigate any potential risk.
2. Onsite vehicles and machinery
Ports often utilise onsite industrial vehicles to fulfil the busy programme of imports and exports each day and transport cargo around the site. Vehicles can pose several fire risks, from exhaust emissions and potential clogging from dust build-up.
In addition, the growing demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) brings about new types of fire risks including drive systems, power electronics, heaters and battery packs, as well as the risks associated with combustion engines for HEVs.
The consistent use of machinery is also essential to a port’s continued operations. These pieces of machinery pose a high risk of overheating, creating an additional fire risk which must be mitigated.
Recognising the evident fire risks, the team at DP London Gateway began working with Fire Shield Systems to put appropriate fire protection and suppression measures in place to mitigate the risk of fire at its site.
‘Fire safety has always been a priority for us to ensure team and asset safety. Our ultimate goal is to continually, safely and successfully fulfil our programmes of imports and exports to keep trade moving,’ says Neil.
Vehicles and machinery
‘We have a large number of machinery assets which are crucial to our operations. Some of these, such as straddle carriers, are very expensive to replace, so safeguarding their continued use is essential. This is why it is our policy to ensure all assets are supplied with fire suppression systems as standard.
‘In 2018, we partnered with Fire Shield Systems to ensure the ongoing, safe use of our site’s machinery and vehicles.
‘Fire Shield Systems recommended the approved Dafo system to be used on all of the mobile equipment on site.’
Installation and ongoing maintenance
‘Fire Shield Systems continues to visit our site regularly to monitor our mobile suppression systems and carry out any necessary maintenance to ensure they remain effective and operate as they’re designed to, should an emergency occur.’
Raising safety standards for the industry
‘It’s been a real pleasure to work on-site at DP World London Gateway,’ says James Mountain, Director, Fire Shield Systems. ‘Our work with them is part of our continued effort to raise safety standards across the port industry.’
‘We are satisfied with Fire Shield Systems’ ability to keep our personnel and our assets safe and look forward to continuing to build our relationship,’ says Neil.
For more information, go to www.fireshieldsystemsltd.co.uk