WHAT ARE FORKLIFT POCKETS AND WHAT PURPOSE DO THEY SERVE?
A forklift pocket is an opening at the base of shipping containers through which the prongs of forklifts are inserted to secure, balance and lift the containers safely. Forklift machines pick and move containers in and around a yard or port. The pockets come as standard fittings in most 20-feet containers and are fixed parallel to the center of the containers in the bottom side rails. Without forklift pockets, we can lift containers only from the top side with the help of a crane. Although pockets are not uncommon in bigger 40-feet containers, there’s an element of hazard involved when balancing and lifting such huge containers with prongs that are not wide apart. Although principally for moving general items over short distances, a high capacity container forklift can also lift and move empty and lightweight containers in and around yards or ports.
The equipment used to handle a container should have sufficient rating to withstand the weight. If there’s cargo inside the container, be certain that the additional weight has been taken into consideration. Standard warehouse forklifts should not be used to lift shipping containers. Warehouse forklifts come in handy only for transporting pallets and heavy items inside warehouses. They serve best when used for indoor activity on a stable and even surface, raising and moving items over short distances safely.
Some containers come equipped with grappler pockets that lift them with grapplers. This is an alternative to using top spreaders that employ corner castings to lift containers.
40-feet containers usually come equipped with an inlet or recess on the floor on the front end. Known as gooseneck container trailers, the goosenecks match with the tunnels on the bottom of the containers. These tunnels balance such containers on the gooseneck chassis.
A common issue associated with forklift pockets is the accidental entry of objects inside that could pose a hazard later. Commonly used tools like a spanner or screwdriver mistakenly left behind inside a forklift pocket by a worker, or an object that gets blown in by wind, could lodge itself inside. This can present problems when prongs are inserted inside the pockets, throwing the containers off balance. To counter such possibilities, there’s a provision to install covers for forklift pocket that make a strong flap to keep the pockets closed when not in use.
Forklifts prove to be the right practical solution to position containers on and off trucks. They are affordable and serve a multitude of purposes. An important safety aspect to remember is that standard warehouse forklifts should not be used to lift shipping containers, and the upper weight carrying capacity of the forklift should be adhered to before lifting them.
Please review other blogs from VS&B that carry a gem of information from the world of container shipping.
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