25 October 2013

Most of the ships, fishing boats and yachts visiting Shoreham Port moor alongside the quays and pontoons in the impounded basin, which is called the Canal. The Canal is kept at a high level so that ships are always afloat and don’t need to worry about the tide going in and out. To get larger visiting ships from sea level outside the locks to the high level of the Canal, they need to pass through a large lock, known as the Prince Philip Lock. 

The lock is 110 metres long and has a pair of watertight gates at each end.  When a ship needs to get in, the outer gates are opened, the ship enters the lock and the gates are shut again. The Port’s ‘Harbour Radio’ team then have to raise the level of the water in the lock until it is the same as the Canal. 

The water flows into the lock from the Canal through two large 2 metre diameter tubes known as sluices but before this can happen Harbour Radio must open the ‘doors’ at the Canal end of the sluices, known as sluice valves.  The sluice valves 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.  When a ship wants to leave, the same process is carried out in reverse but with open valves at the seaward end of the sluices to let the water out.

The sluice valves and their housings are enormous steel objects looking a bit like flattened white pumpkins but weighing 11 tonnes and standing 8 metres high in their specially designed sluice pits.

Naturally, the sluice valves wear out eventually and the engineering team at the Port are currently in the process of swapping one of the sluice valves for a newly refurbished spare. The swap has taken place in a number of day-long operations involving a 220 Tonne crane, jacks, pulleys, pumps and the removal and fitting of more than 90 thirty millimetre diameter bolts in very oily, very wet and dark and extremely tight spaces eight metres below ground level.

Tony Parker, Director of Engineering at Shoreham Port commented “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. The whole team can be very proud of the achievement and we are already looking forward to doing another one next year!”