The Port of Dover has a long, colourful history stretching back to Roman times and today is one of the world’s busiest and most successful ports, with some 14 million private and commercial passengers and 2 million lorries travelling through it each year.
Originally established back in 1606 under a Charter granted by King James I, the Dover Harbour Board is a statutory body responsible for the administration, maintenance and improvement of the harbour facilities including fire safety for the huge 240 acre site, much of which has been reclaimed from the sea.
“Yet nothing stands still,” confirms Maintenance Supervisor at Dover Harbour Board, “and the past fifty years in particular have seen huge changes, with both continuing growth and a major shift in emphasis in terms of passenger and commercial traffic.” The 1950s saw the first drive on drive off ferry berths, followed a decade later by roll on, roll off freight. In the past decade the Port has also diversified into cruise shipping and cold storage cargo. Managing such a large and diverse site has major implications on fire safety, which periodically has had to undergo similarly far reaching transformations in order to reflect the changing demands of the commercial environment.
In 1984, for example, with the development of larger terminal buildings, the Harbour Board moved from a passive to a more intelligent system of fire protection and over the next five years introduced a progressive analogue addressable system. The panels were networked with a conventional system providing full fire and fault protection and linked to a central visual display, providing point location for every building.
It was in 2002 however that the most radical overhaul of the entire site’s fire protection system took place. the Harbour Board needed to ensure it had a system which provided adequate protection for the complete site including the harbours and marinas in their present state of development. At the same time, it had to offer the flexibility and scalability to provide an essential level of future proofing, maximising the return on such a significant investment.
As a result, the Harbour Board went out to full tender and chose independent specialists FAFS Fire & Security (formerly Fire Alarm Fabrication Services Ltd). FAFS Fire & Security in turn selected Morley-IAS by Honeywell using Apollo devices as the equipment best suited to the task. “We already had a very positive experience of working with both the fire systems house and Morley-IAS and Apollo equipment,” said a spokesperson for Dover Harbour Board. “Equally importantly, however, they showed they fully understood the varied demands of our unique operation and together offered the most effective and appropriate solution going forward.”
The demands on fire safety provision at Dover are wide ranging. The Harbour Board is responsible for managing the Western and Eastern Docks situated two miles apart, including a wide array of passenger and freight buildings, from cruise and ferry terminals to immigration holding areas to cold stores.
The buildings, manned and unmanned accommodate visitors and staff and include car parks, an IT centre, high voltage sub stations, workshops and storage areas containing hazardous materials, all with their own individual fire protection requirements. In addition, the Dover Harbour Board is landlord of a large number of Georgian flats and apartments along the seafront and it has to manage a large number of listed buildings.
Following the review, the Port was subdivided into four sections, each supported by a separate loop using fully addressable Morley- IAS ZX control panels and using Apollo Discovery protocol devices. The system in total incorporates 41 panels. Ranging from the smaller single loop ZX1E to the ZX5E 5 loop formats for the large terminal complexes. The control panels support over 2,300 devices making it one of the largest installations of its type in the UK. Unusually, as the site has a French customs area, this also includes multilingual voice enhanced sounders.
A P1 system is adopted for those parts of the Docks complex which is unmanned for any period of time, with the highest category P1/L1 system for public buildings. In order to accommodate the diverse range of applications across the site, the solution includes optical beam, ionisation and aspirating systems.
The fire protection system includes seven miles of network cabling, which are a mixture of copper and fibre optic cables. Transient protection has been fitted to the panels where relevant and every device is monitored round the clock, with any loss of signal immediately investigated. The whole network reports through to the police station situated at the edge of the Eastern Dock.
Reliable, robust, user friendly
According to the Sales Manager at FAFS Fire & Security “For Dover Docks the reputation of both Morley IAS and Apollo in providing industry leading levels of reliability was critical in protecting such a hard worked yet sensitive site.”
“Equally, one of the biggest challenges was to accommodate a wide range of detectors, some of which were up to 15 years old. Here too, Morley-IAS panels’ unique backwards compatibility has enabled us to deliver a highly cost effective solution. At the same time, the Docks provide a hostile, corrosive environment and the chosen solution had to be suitably robust to withstand the pressures of the natural elements associated with its coastal location.”
Another reason why Morley-IAS’s proven durability is constantly put to the test. “Our security staff are fully trained to deal with the hugely fluctuating numbers of people using our facilities each day, particularly in the cruise terminals which may stand empty for some time and then have to cope with 2,000 passengers,” said a spokesperson for Dover Harbour Board.
He continues, “However, across a large site undergoing constant refurbishment, problems can arise if contractors stray beyond their controlled areas or the agreed programme of work for example. The Morley-IAS panels’ ability to isolate down to an individual device means we can precisely define the area in which maintenance or development work is to be undertaken and put in a temporary firewatch.”
Another strength of the Morley-IAS system which made it particularly well suited for the Dover Docks’ application was its user friendliness. The network is constantly monitored at three locations and the panels are clear and concise and the system simply ‘holds your hand’ throughout its operation, making it very easy to use. This is important for fire managers and operating staff, who can see at a glance where potential problems have arisen, using its full fault reporting.
Key to the effective management of any fire risk, particularly in an environment with a large number of people and high volume of traffic spread over such a wide area, is to have in place safe and tightly controlled evacuation procedures.
Here the Morley-IAS based solution provides effective support through its pre-alarm functionality. This isolates the area at risk and enables fire staff to check out the potential problem and restrict the area subject to evacuation, so minimising disruption.
Since its introduction, Dover Harbour Board has been pleased with the performance of the new system, which has provided the level of reliability and effectiveness required. In order for this to be achieved, of course, maintenance has to be of an equivalently high order and in this regard FAFS Fire & Security has proved equally impressive.
As part of Dover Harbour Board’s detailed monitoring process, FAFS Fire & Security’s fully accredited engineers use laptops to record all service and maintenance activity. “This gives us 100 per cent confidence that the checks have been carried out property. At the same time, the FAFS Fire & Security team is highly responsive to our enquiries, delivers comprehensive training for our staff and provides us with valuable proactive advice and support in ensuring our systems are fully up to date and appropriate to our needs.” comments Maintenance Supervisor at Dover Harbour Board.
As part of the Dock Harbour Board’s long term plan, future developments include the expansion of its ferry business.
“We operate in a highly volatile market and the only thing that is guaranteed is change. However, with the Morley-IAS and Apollo system in place and the on going support of FAFS Fire & Security, we have a fire protection system with the resilience and flexibility needed to respond to whatever demands are placed on us in the future.”