Grangemouth is Scotland's largest container port. It specialises in short-sea distribution, linking up with the deep-sea ports of the UK and Europe. Regular sailings from Grangemouth are destined for Belgium, The Netherlands, and St Petersburg. Other regular destinations from Grangemouth are the South coastal ports of the UK.
The Port of Grangemouth handles traffic of 210,000 shipping containers each year, but has throughput capacity of 400,000 units. These are all handled to and from ship with three gantry cranes at the container terminal, two of which are 32 tonne cranes, to handle the largest and heaviest of containers.
The loading and unloading of shipping containers is a time consuming job. This is made all the more difficult by the complexities of unloading and loading. Shipping containers cannot just be lifted off from a ship in any order, due to the stability of the ship itself, and when loading, many considerations need to be thought out first. The heaviest containers need to be loaded first, so that they sit below deck level, but at the same time, those that will be unloaded first needs to be taken into account. Then there are the refrigerated containers and the heated containers. These need to be located near to power points on the ship when loaded. This is of significant importance to a port such as Grangemouth, with its short haul cargo, being shipped to many different destinations. Many shipping containers also carry hazardous cargo, such as explosives or chemicals. These cannot be loaded with the refrigerated containers, due to risk of explosion.
When the containers are loaded onto ships, they need to be secured to the structure of the ship. Below deck level, shipping containers are loaded between cell guides. These stop the containers from moving about while in transit. Once the lower level is loaded and full, large pontoon hatches are loaded and secures to the ship. With the pontoons in place, the shipping containers can then be loaded onto these, and can be piled up to six containers high. The lower tiers of containers, two or three high, are secured by attaching strong bars, which are then attached to the pontoons with bottle screws. The top tiers of containers are then loaded and secured with either twistlocks or conlocks. These special devices lock each corner of the shipping container to the one below.