11 November 2016

On the 18th October, the Port’s Engineering team successfully replaced the existing 1.8m diameter sluice valve at the south east corner of our Prince Phillip Lock with a refurbished spare as part of their on-going regime of programmed maintenance.

Site preparation work and detailed planning had been carried out for several weeks prior to the changeover to ensure a successful outcome and to minimise disruption to the flow of ships through the lock.  Following motivational bacon sandwiches and team briefings, work began at 4.30am to disconnect and lift the eight metre tall valve assembly up and out of the sluice pit where it had been working tirelessly for more than 30 years. 

Working in shifts, the eight members of the team first had to work in cramped and wet conditions six metres underground to disconnect the hydraulic pipes and electric control cables from the sluice and then remove all 96, 20mm diameter bolts securing the sluice valve in place. After that, a 120 tonne capacity crane carefully lifted the 11 tonne valve out and the bright and shiny replacement valve was lifted in and secured in place.  The last of the 96 new bolts had been tightened on the replacement valve by 9pm in the evening, leaving the new valve ready for testing and commissioning the next day.

Senior Engineering Manager Rhys Hutchings said “Although it was an extremely long day for all involved, it was also an enormously productive and satisfying one.  The whole team had a great sense of satisfaction as they made their way home that night after the hard day’s work.”

Director of Engineering, Tony Parker added “Rhys makes it sound easy but this was a great achievement by all involved.  The operation was difficult and complicated, required considerable planning, immense skill and a huge effort over a 17 hour period.  Everyone involved should be extremely proud of the successful outcome and, as an observer; I particularly appreciated the great team spirit and cooperative effort from the whole team during the operation.”

It is now planned that the old valve will be refurbished to join the large stock of essential lock spares held ready to be installed whenever they are needed.