Outdoor Power Clusters For AB Ports


Originally built over 100 years ago, the ports in Newport, Swansea and Cardiff have been undergoing redevelopment work to bring the electrical infrastructure up to date with modern quality standards. Vessels that use the docks are loaded and unloaded using one of many quay-side rail-mounted grabbing cranes that run the length of the dock. These cranes are powered by 200A ground sockets placed at convenient intervals along the dock. Once the crane is positioned alongside the vessel, it is plugged into the nearest socket using an umbilical cable attached to the back of each crane.

Each socket runs into a ground box, a metal enclosure sunk into the ground. These ground boxes form a trench that runs parallel to the length of the track on which the cranes operate. However, these connection points were originally built in the 1960s and the intervening years have not been kind to the structure and electrical condition of the boxes.

There was also the issue of safety and the fact that the technology used in the boxes was over fifty years old. The copper power-supply cable entered the box from one side, clamped onto the bus bar and another cable clamped onto the other end before exiting the box.

This meant that the copper was essentially supported only by the clamped copper cables, which themselves were insulated from the sides of the box with porcelain insulators. Combine this with the fact that the boxes had deteriorated and taken on water over the years, there was a very real risk of short circuit, which could have proved to be detrimental to the port’s operations


To rectify situations such as this, ABP has committed more than £1bn in capital and operational investment across its port estate, made up of 21 ports stretching across 54 miles of quayside across the UK.

As part of this redevelopment, ide Systems was commissioned to upgrade the existing electrical infrastructure for the cranes to connect safely and efficiently to a reliable mains power supply.

ide Systems designed and manufactured a series of 22 galvanised steel enclosures with electrical hook up points to replace the existing ones. The units were fabricated from galvanised steel to prevent corrosion and fitted with two holes to allow steel-wire armoured, 4-core cable glands to be fitted to the enclosure.

The cables were rated to IP67 and the holes for the incoming power supply were situated above the bus bar to reduce the chances of ingress into the enclosure. To further reinforce the enclosure, ide Systems developed a polyethylene liner to allow the bus-bar to be raised from the bottom of the enclosure to protect it from ingress. The whole unit was also made to fit the very particular dimensions of the trench where previous boxes were sunk into the ground.

The success of the project has allowed ide Systems to secure commissions to upgrade similar electrical systems at other ABP sites, such as Swansea and Cardiff, over the coming years, bringing each of them in line with modern quality standards.

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