Thursday, 31 October 2019

Zeebrugge port boss says just 1% of containers are x-rayed

 Traffic signs point to the various terminals of the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. Photograph: Kurt Desplenter/Belga/AFP via Getty Images

Chief executive defends security measures after discovery of 39 bodies in lorry in Essex

Just one in every 100 sealed containers at Zeebrugge are x-rayed, and none are checked for heat, according to authorities at the Belgian port through which the 39 people found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex are believed to have travelled.
Joachim Coens, the chief executive of Zeebrugge port, and Peter Degroote, a harbourmaster, defended security at the port but admitted sealed containers were not checked inside and x-ray scans were only used – rarely – to check for goods, not the presence of humans.
Questions have been asked about security at the port, from where the lorry is believed to have travelled to the UK carrying the 39 people on Tuesday. Their bodies were discovered in the back of the lorry in an industrial estate in Grays early on Wednesday.
In an interview with the Guardian on Friday, Coens confirmed that the container passed through a terminal at the port, run by the company C.RO. “They, of course, do everything possible, together with us, to avoid that people are entering the terminal. That’s the main thing. You can see it’s wired, it’s fenced, it’s locked. It’s a closed terminal.”
Coens and Degroote said €1m (£860,000) was spent each year to protect the terminal, which is one of several at the port, which processes up to 7,000 containers daily and is guarded round the clock by security staff, who deploy six sniffer dogs.
Coens said police dealt “daily” with small groups of migrants attempting to cut holes in fences and gain access to the port. “They are smaller groups, people are mostly coming from conflict areas in north Africa, Eritrea, the Middle East. They [the port security] cope, in the way that they can keep the people out. If they are caught they go to the police.”
Degroote, who is one of four harbourmasters at the port, said lorries arriving with containers were photographed from all angles – “below, underneath, everything”.
Coens explained that lorries with canvas containers were checked inside with CO2 devices to see if humans were present, and sniffer dogs were also deployed.
But asked if there were any other checks on sealed refrigerated containers, Coens said there was not. “If it’s sealed in a cooled container under temperature control, no.
“The most important thing is that the terminal is completely fenced and looked at with cameras and security guys running around daily – they cost millions – to see that there’s nobody running around.
“So we, the terminal, suppose that there is nobody around and the container is closed and finished and we’re good so there is no need to open it. Because otherwise you unseal it and you have the butter or the meat, or whatever [is inside], and it contaminates and you have to seal whatever is in.”
Degroote said some containers spot-checked by police and customs officials were x-rayed, but he estimated that just 1% of trailers were subject to the procedure. “But that’s not to find people … the customs are focusing on goods. So that’s what their checks are made for.”
Coens added: “[It is] to check if you declare to bring butter and it’s not butter inside but kalashnikovs [guns].”
He said the percentage of sealed containers passing through Zeebrugge to the UK that were x-rayed was “1%, maybe. It’s a very low figure.”
Both men confirmed there were no heat scanners at the port. It has been suggested that the refrigerated container’s sub-zero temperatures may have been deliberately used to fool a heat scan.
Coens suggested British authorities should be more involved in carrying out checks. “It’s one or the other. If you do it here there should be more involvement of the UK side.”
Belgian prosecutors opened an investigation into the deaths on Thursday.
Coens – who has worked at the port for 18 years – said: “The investigation is important for us to see from the beginning to the end what happened and what could be done.
“Every time there is an incident, with every meeting we have with police and customs … we follow their instructions. It has been adapted year by year by new methods, so we adapt every time. So if there is something more we can do, we can definitely do [it], that’s for sure.”
Deegroote added: “The port is a part of the whole link. It starts where the truck leaves and we are being funnelled into the problem because that’s the point where the cargo stops. Maybe we can do more, depending on the lessons learned from the investigation.”
Nineteen years ago, 58 Chinese migrants suffocated in a lorry in Dover after travelling through Zeebrugge.

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Wildlife study finds habitat created by the Port of Tilbury is now a site of national importance for invertebrates

A wildlife area created six years ago to offset losses of habitat from the development of the London Distribution Park (LDP) at Tilbury, has proved so successful it has been ranked by one of Britain’s foremost entomological consultants as of national importance for insects and other invertebrates.
The site at Mucking Landfill was created in 2013 by spreading chalk slurry over an area equivalent to six football pitches and then placing ‘dunes’ made from waste fly ash and chalk bunds on the top. By agreement with the owners of the landfill site, Enovert South, it was then left unmanaged and allowed to develop naturally.
Monitoring studies last year found that the new habitats already supported a proportionally higher number of rare and scarce invertebrate species than had been found at the LDP site in 2011, prior to development.
Dr Mark G. Telfer, an independent entomological consultant, recorded 236 invertebrate species in the new habitat in 2018. Of these, 15% are deemed to be rare, scarce or have a threatened or near threatened conservation status. Further analysis has shown that the new habitat supports an exceptionally high quality ‘bare sand and chalk’ assemblage of species.
Ecologists will continue to monitor the site but as the initial study has been so successful the report recommends creating additional invertebrate habitats at Mucking – a scheme that is now in process to offset impacts from the Tilbury 2 development on the site of the former Tilbury Power Station.
Ecologists Bioscan UK Limited designed the wildlife area on behalf of the Port of Tilbury.
 Peter Ward, Commercial Director at Port of Tilbury, said: “The results of this study are fascinating and I am really pleased the habitat has been deemed so successful that it is now considered of national importance.
 “We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously at the Port of Tilbury and it is clear that this habitat at Mucking Landfill is supporting a remarkable richness and abundance of species while succeeding at what it was set up to do – offsetting the losses incurred from the development of LDP.
 “We will continue to work with Bioscan on future studies and hope to replicate a similar study to coincide with Tilbury 2.”
 Dominic Woodfield, Managing Director at Bioscan UK Limited, said: “The Thames Estuary is a known hotspot for rare invertebrates, but many of these species are increasingly restricted to post-industrial or brownfield sites which are often identified for redevelopment. 
 “The need for an offset scheme to ensure no net loss of biodiversity from the development of the LDP presented an opportunity to try and create those post-industrial conditions from scratch. 
 “We deliberately used selected waste materials from construction and industrial processes that we knew would create the right physical and chemical conditions and designed the scheme so that these would be placed and shaped in a way that would maximise their potential.”
 Mark Silvester, CEO at Enovert, said: “Restoration of Enovert’s Mucking Landfill site and the country park will benefit hugely from the valuable habitat gained from inclusion of the LDP and Tilbury 2 offset schemes. The success achieved following importation and placement of the LDP material shows how important a part landfill restoration schemes can play in delivering improved biodiversity at both a local and national level. 
 “We’re delighted that the Mucking site is now home to one of the UK’s most important wildlife areas. The long-term management of this very special and important site will continue to be supported by the Enovert Community Trust in partnership with the Essex Wildlife Trust.”
 Marc Outten, Area Manager South East at Essex Wildlife Trust, said: “The results from the 2018 surveys are extremely exciting and further highlight the importance of the Thames Gateway for invertebrates of which many are rare or endangered. The partnership between the key stakeholders will not only maintain that these threatened creatures continue to have a stronghold at Mucking and along the Thames, but also the chance to reconnect local communities with these important species and the natural environment in which they live.”   
Image of a Bombardier Beetle (Brachinus crepitans) found at the habitat.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Will Robots Take Our Jobs? - BBC Click

Will robots replace human workers? We meet the people whose livelihoods might be under threat and those who are doing something about it. Subscribe HERE Find us online at Twitter: @bbcclick Facebook:


ITF’s dockers’ unions have been at the sharp end of port automation. Due to new technology we have seen jobs disappear, change and shift location. 

Nevertheless, while we often hear about fully automated ports, we need to bear in mind that it is questionable whether there are any truly automated ports in the world, ports that function without people. Ports are complex assemblies of machinery and systems, some of which can be relatively easily isolated and automated (like rolling gantry cranes). Port conditions around the world vary significantly too. As a whole though, a port is not easy to automate. 

For example, it is not easy to automate the process of lifting or loading a container off or onto a ship. The ship and container move unpredictably. The tides change, wind speed and visibility varies. Often only a worker with experience can predict how. Even in the more predictable areas automation, it is only possible after workers have trained automation engineers to understand the job. This amounts to dockworkers training people to build technologies that can later replace them. Other forms of technology can effectively shift workers away from the dockside through the use of remote control. And this is what often happens. 

So we need to bear in mind that we are usually talking about the automation of a process, rather than a whole port, and sometimes we are talking about the introduction of remote control even if companies’ marketing describes it as ‘port automation’.  But dockers still lose their jobs when these technologies are used, and any remaining jobs still change – people go from operating machinery to overseeing it. For many dockers the new role doesn’t feel like dock work. For example, crane operators can now work from dockside offices rather than be in the cranes themselves. Or the work can even be done in another country, as has happened to dock workers in Melbourne and Oslo. So in ports we are seeing a combination of automation and remote control technology impacting dock workers in several ways. But the job losses due to automation don’t just impact dockworkers – there are significant economic costs to surrounding communities when jobs go. This should be an issue of broader concern to port communities. 

In a similar way to the impacts on workers elsewhere, in docks technology makes some parts of a job less skilled, can increase the transparency of a job to supervision, can intensify workloads and responsibility and can also make some aspects of a job more intellectually demanding. So jobs can become less physically demanding, but more mentally demanding. Furthermore, while demand for some jobs shrinks, demand for other roles increases – for example automated ports suffer from a shortage of automation engineers, or people who can maintain sensors and other equipment. There is no reason why existing dockworkers can’t be retrained to do this work, and some of our unions have managed to get employers to agree to this and to rehire lists and other forms of compensation. These forms of compensation should take into account the work that dockers do and the knowledge they provide to help ‘train’ the automation engineers who programme the equipment that will replace them.  There are many drivers for automation in ports but one of them is no doubt ‘political’. Ports are strategic economic locations, chokepoints for international trade. As history has shown this makes dockers’ unions powerful, and governments have often interfered against their mobilisation. Automation reduces the number of jobs in a port, changes the dockside culture and weakens dockers’ unions, which can have a dual economic and political purposes. We have seen a similar process with the building of ‘greenfield’ ports that make use of non-union labour, so automation can be part of a broader pattern of anti-union behaviour. 

There are thousands of ports around the world but only a handful of them are crucial to the global economy. These are mainly located in Asia Pacific (including Australia), Western Europe and the United States. When we look at where port automation has happened or is planned, we can see that it is mainly affecting ports in these same areas. According to analyst Neil Davidson, only 1 per cent of ports are currently fully automated, and only 2 per cent are semi-automated. One provider of automation technology expects the number of automated ports to grow to 100 by 2020. Whether this is an exaggeration or not, there is clearly a lot of potential for more ports to become automated or semi-automated in coming years. 

Proponents of port automation claim that technology can deliver higher throughput of containers with far less people, leading to reductions in labour costs of around 60 per cent, while also saving on maintenance and energy use. Overall cost reductions of around 30 per cent are claimed. However, there are many factors holding further deployment back. Although some operators claim that automated cranes can make 30 moves per hour, it appears that this isn’t easy to achieve, nor is it necessarily better than the rates possible in manual terminals. At the same time, automated terminals are not as flexible as manned ones. If there is a downturn in volumes or if routes shift to alternative ports, the sunk costs are immense. Automated ports are also vulnerable to hacking and viruses which can be costly to repair or defend against, and there is the fact that machinery depreciates and can rapidly become outdated. 

Dockers do not oppose new technology in ports, but we have good reason for scepticism when the technology is expensive, inflexible and not as productive as people are. But perhaps none of that matters if the real purpose is to weaken our unions.


Electric vehicles now make up majority of ABP's fleet at Southampton

ABP has welcomed an additional 12 new electric vehicles to its fleet at the Port of Southampton so that electric vehicles now make up the majority of its fleet.

Forging ahead with its commitments to improve air quality across the port, there are now 28 ABP zero emission vehicles operating around the port.

These new vehicles are intended for staff travel around the port and replace the older diesel-fuelled cars and vans. The new vehicles are being introduced to the ABP fleet where hybrid or electric alternatives are available.

With the removal of 14 older diesel vehicles from its fleet, ABP will be eliminating 15 tonnes of carbon emissions per year, as the new vehicles will be powered using renewable energy.

The electric vehicle replacement scheme is one of the priorities set out in ABP’s air quality strategy - Cleaner Air for Southampton - published last year.

To support the increase of electric vehicles in the fleet, ABP has also installed additional charging bays at its offices in Southampton which are available for staff and visitor use bringing the total number of charging points on the port to more than 70. This includes charging points in the short stay cruise passenger car parks.

The company has committed to run only electric or hybrid vehicles by the end of 2020 where such alternatives to diesel are available. Currently, not all port-use vehicles have zero emission replacements and ABP is working with a manufacturer to develop viable alternatives. 
ABP Regional Director for Southampton Alastair Welch said: “Increasing our electric vehicle fleet is a key strand of our air quality strategy over the next few years.

“We know that air quality in the city has been steadily improving and we are committed to working with the port community and the city council to accelerate these improvements
and do our bit to deliver even cleaner air.”


Ultra large Maersk Essex arrives to the Port of Felixstowe on the ebbing tide. 28th October 2019

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Accident / Fatigue Or Lack Of Maintenance.........

Port Of Felixstowe By Robin Pridmore



Pic credits Robin Pridmore