19 October 2012

It’s October and the summer season seems a distant memory now and there are far fewer sailing yachts and smaller fishing boats travelling in and out of the port. Every year, our Engineering Team seizes the opportunity of this relative quiet period to carry out the autumn service on the 40 tonne steel lock gates at either end of the Prince George Lock.

“The lock gates on the Prince George lock are large, heavy and sophisticated pieces of machinery and they need regular inspections and servicing to keep them in tip-top safe working condition just like a car or a central heating boiler” said Deputy Port Engineer Brian Rousell. “We need to physically check all the mechanical components, including those normally underwater, change any worn out parts, such as zinc anodes and rubber seals and make adjustments to make sure the gates continue to operate efficiently.”

A 100 tonne crane was used to lift dams into place to cut the lock off from the canal and large pumps are draining the lock down to the concrete floor.  Alongside the essential work, the team will be taking the opportunity to remove debris and fenders that are no longer used and will service the floating pontoon that provides access to boats in the lock.

The lock shut-down is planned to last for three weeks and while the lock is out of action the boats that usually use the Prince George Lock will be diverted through the larger Prince Philip Lock in-between commercial ship movements. 

Once the lock is drained down it gives the opportunity to inspect areas that are normally permanently submerged, including the former sluice culvert which has recently suffered from some localised subsidence, and allows the Engineering Team to work as quickly as possible to get everything working back to normal.  It also gives a privileged few the chance to see the wide variety of plant and animal life that inhabits the lock floor including starfish, urchins, crabs, sea slugs and anemones.