Maldon U3A - Maritime Visit to Shell Haven & London Gateway

Maritime Group Outing to Shell Haven and London Gateway on the 2nd March 2015

When we arrived at the Shell Haven site (on the north bank of the Thames), Malcolm took our driver and Alec Fraser into the Terminal for security clearance.
Control room

Our coach then took us all into the Terminal where we were escorted into the control room for a welcome cup of tea. The terminal manager, Graham Hipkin, then gave us a comprehensive and detailed talk about this, the largest British Depot for Aviation fuel – Jet A1. This is unloaded from the ships using one of the very large pipelines on the jetty and taken to be stored in, initially, large tanks before being transferred via filters and coaslescers to remove any water or sediments, to smaller tanks prior to being tested and delivered to the various airports by either road tanker or pipeline. Safety and cleanliness are paramount at all stages of the operation – there are no “Lay-bys in the sky”. Jet A1 can be contaminated by water, bacteria or air, one of the most reliable ways of checking is by using a stainless steel bucket! The larger storage tanks cost £800,000 to clean and repair every two years. Each storage tank has its own foam line to cover the top surface in emergencies before the local fire brigade arrives. The 2005 Buncefield incident gave them new and valuable safety information regarding high level tank alarms and general monitoring of storage areas. We then had a short drive to the jetty but a long wait for gate keys from both Shell Haven and the London Gateway Port.


After a delicious lunch we left this down-to-earth working atmosphere to go to the ultra-modern executive building at the London Gateway Port.

We had an illustrated talk about the company Dubai Port, who own London Gateway. The terminal was financed by several banks in 2009 for the Arab Emirates (Dubai Ports recently bought the P & O Shipping Company – a shrewd move!).

The reasoning for this site was explained using maps and import/export strategies for Britain and the world. When it is finally completed in 2026 it will be one of the three quickest, largest and private container ports in the world. It has a fully automated lorry loading and unloading system which is controlled from the terminal headquarters by computer. The system is triggered by the lorry drivers themselves for safety reasons. Refrigerated containers have special areas with power points. Distribution is by road lorry and railways.

We drove between the enormous Container handling cranes by the Thames for the huge sea-going container ships. Our coach was not even as high as the yellow bases of them, the jetty is underpinned with large steel rods underground.

The area was once Shell Haven Oil Refinery and before being developed as a Container Terminal, it was necessary to find and to re-allocate the wildlife to new areas.

We had a surprise visit from the boss as he was finishing his lunch – a bag of crisps! He also emphasised their world power and strategies. He lives in Colchester.

It was an extremely interesting day with two very contrasting modern companies. Thank you Malcolm for another excellent trip.

Jane Coombes

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Last revised 6th June 2015