Misty morning light catches the cranes of Trinity Terminal as we near the town of Felixstowe, exposing the vastness of the great British port. Passing an abundance of lorries on the road in - their consignment of containers coming or going thousands of miles - it’s easy to overlook each one’s route and resolve.
The Port of Felixstowe is Britain’s biggest and busiest container port. It has been at the heart of Britain’s maritime trade since 1875 and today directly employs two thousand five hundred men and women. Handling sixty freight trains daily and approximately three thousand container vessels yearly, the port deals with around eighty-four billion tons of cargo each year.
With hard hats & high-visibility on, Rageenee explains the strict safety standards as we zigzag through the yard that never sleeps. We disembark at berths eight and nine, where the towering two thousand tonne cranes work around the clock on piles of regimented containers stacked fifty feet high. “The cranes weigh the equivalent of four hundred elephants and are as tall as seventy giraffes stacked,” Rageenee pronounces portentously. “I do a lot of school trips, you see”.
Past berths eight and nine, we meet crane driver and key site supervisor, Kevin, who has been working on the site for twenty-one years. “Every day’s different; I’m never not busy or bored.” He talks of gangs; the Crane Gang, the Tug Gang; “Five men on the machine and there’s always one on his tea break,” he chuckles.
“Sometimes the crew of the tanker welcomes me aboard and I have a second lunch. Went and had lunch with a Chinese crew this one time and I wasn’t sure what it was and it smelt something awful, but would’ve been rude not to eat it.”
Everyone we encountered at the port, from all corners of the UK, described the pride in their profession and a sense of community with heads held high. As if reminiscing, a deep Bristonian burr hums, “look at that sun,” poetically over the radio. There’s an air of silence and the feeling that all heads in the yard are turning out towards the bay. “Best sunset in the world on Trinity Marsh. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” the voice buzzes. An almost perfectly still moment is shattered by a mocking, “Ha! Whatever John!”
Trucks steam around the yard and freight trains gather momentum. Crane drivers in glass-bottomed cockpits pick and place whilst tugs push and pull. Workmen weld and pencils are pushed. Never resting on its laurels, The Port of Felixstowe keeps Britain buoyant.