Port and rail – pass or fail?

Port and rail – pass or fail?

Ports and railways are some of the biggest economic drivers as they ensure that goods get to market. But how important is the management of SHEQ in these fiscal cogs? Is the acronym taken to heart, or is it all about moving the tonnes? JACO DE KLERK investigates.

South Africa offers some of the most strategically placed ports on one of the world’s most important shipping routes … So, it’s no wonder then that safety, health, environmental and quality issues (SHEQ) take pride of place at its docks.

I experienced this first hand while attending a monthly Transport Forum Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting, at the Port of Cape Town, in my capacity as a journalist for FOCUS on Transport and Logistics – a sister publication of

The Transport Forum hosts speakers, from specific disciplines within the transport industry, who discuss transport-related themes of national relevance. But I’m straying off course – the “why” isn’t important, it’s the “what happened while I was there” that’s relevant.

First up, while I signed in at the gate, the security guard politely informed me that I should reverse my car into the parking bay (apparently it’s safer to reverse into a static parking bay than to reverse out into a road or car park, which may have traffic and pedestrian movement that you cannot easily see) to ensure a safe getaway.

Then, everyone in attendance had to take a breathalyser test upon entering the building where the Forum was being held, and again before we entered the area where the actual containers were being kept … This, we thought, would delay our bus tour of the port, arranged by the Transport Forum. “Why should we take another test?” I heard from the back of the bus.

“Because people sometimes keep booze in their car, and catch a quick dop before returning to work,” came the reply.

So, in the name of health, safety and thoroughness, two port officials breathalysed everyone, which took less time than we had expected. (Luckily there weren’t any “car boozers” among us … as they wouldn’t have been allowed in.)

Once we were past the alcohol-free gate everyone donned the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and an array of brightly coloured reflective jackets.

The Port of Cape Town doesn’t own the monopoly to SHEQ, however, as there are various safety and security trends at docks worldwide. For example, as Total Rail notes in the eBook Transport Security & Safety Trends (written by Bianca Wiener, marketing manager at Terrapinn in Johannesburg*), X-ray and Radiation Portal Monitors (RPM) – fixed radiation detection systems designed for automated screening of pedestrians, vehicles and trains passing through the detection zone – enable port security to examine the contents of containers at the gates of international ports, helping to determine if there is a threat and whether the contents should be examined manually.

Crane-mounted sensors, embedded in the spreader bar, are also used to scan containers during every lift, explains Total Rail, thereby helping to detect risks. If anything is picked up, the container is put to one side for manual inspection.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags are also used to help authorities to identify the current location and the transit path of a container. These tags are also used in the railway market to provide clients with information to manage the coming and going of cargo.

Industry players, within these fiscal cogs, are doing their SHEQ part as well – especially when it comes to the seafaring folks …

South African shipbuilder and maritime solutions company, Nautic South Africa, was contracted to take over six vessels belonging to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) from the South African Navy, in order to restore them to their former seagoing glory.

The shipbuilder also helped the DAFF with bunkering, crewing and the supply of other logistics to ensure the vessels were put to sea as quickly as possible – adding their muscle to the patrolling of South African waters.

“Now that the DAFF vessels are back in operation, we can focus on providing them with optimal long-term support aimed at reducing downtime,” says Eddie Noble, head of vessel operations management for Nautic South Africa. “We do this by implementing a planned maintenance system and carefully rotating the vessels. We also ensure that vessel operation functions are optimised. In doing all of this we’re able to pass on cost savings to the DAFF.”

These vessels are now used to fight piracy, drug smuggling and human trafficking, as well as illegal and unregulated fishing. Many of them have an additional role, such as environmental research on, for example, rock lobsters, linefish, sharks and marine mammals.

“Nautic South Africa’s proactive, can-do approach has played a big role in getting these vessels back to sea,” says Noble. “These successes can be added to as we kick into full-swing operations for the DAFF.”

“Landlubbers” aren’t being left behind when it comes to the SHEQ world, however, as can be seen by one of the latest offerings from Cetab South Africa (a networking and business organisation that connects South African and Swedish entrepreneurs) to the local rail industry.

According to Bo Nilsson, CEO of Cetab SA, Hammerglass is an abrasion, chemical and age-resistant polycarbonate that is 300 times stronger than ordinary glass – with half the weight (a 12 mm Hammerglass sheet weighs 14 kg/m2, where safety glass offers the same protection at 24 mm with a weight of 70 kg/m2) – and is virtually unbreakable.

The product has been tested and approved, in explosion tests performed by the Swedish Technical Research and Test Institute. Here a 12 mm Hammerglass sheet, installed in Hammerglass framing systems, withstood 3 kg of TNT detonated at a three-metre distance. It can also endure a minimum of 72 blows from an axe mounted in a test machine, and holds an aluminium projectile (of up to 1 kg) that’s propelled at a speed of 450 km/h, at a 90o angle, at the glass …

As can be seen through various developments and trends, SHEQ management, and the improvements it brings, is definitely taking pride of place in ports, railways and the accompanying industries – with the acronym definitely being taken to heart.

* Terrapinn is a business media company that owns a portfolio of various business-to-business brands and operates from a network of offices in London, New York, Singapore, Sydney, Dubai and Johannesburg. The organisation also organises events – such as conferences and trade exhibitions – and provides training programmes.

Total Rail, one of Terrapinn’s brands, discusses news related to investment and development in rail for operators, investors and developers.

Published by

SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
HSE is best at OSH, again!
Prev HSE is best at OSH, again!
Next Friendly fire?
Friendly fire?