In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic forced many cruise ship companies into an operational pause, resulting in many cruise ships anchoring in various locations for long periods of time. Several incidents have occurred since October 2020 where cruise ship anchors or anchor cables have failed, says The Nautical Institute in its latest Mars Report.

The Nautical Institute gathers reports of maritime accidents and near-misses. It then publishes these so-called Mars Reports (anonymously) to prevent other accidents from happening. A summary of this incident:

Anchor failures often occurred while trying to ride out winter storms. One cruise ship lost both its anchors within a week.

The strength of anchoring equipment is defined by ship classification rules and it is intended for temporary mooring of a ship within a harbour or sheltered area. In good holding ground, the anchoring equipment should be able to hold the ship to a maximum wind strength of 48 knots in flat water, but this reduces to a maximum of 21 knots wind strength in seas with a significant wave height of two metres.

According to classification rules, anchoring equipment is not designed to hold a ship off exposed coasts in rough weather or to stop a ship that is moving or drifting. In these conditions, the loads on the anchoring equipment increase to such a degree that its components may be damaged or fail due to the high energy forces generated, particularly with ships with high windage.

Also read: Don’t rely on anchors to keep your ship in place during a storm

Failures have occurred in joining links, anchor chain common links, D-links and across the anchor crown causing the flukes to be lost. Of the failures reported so far, the most frequent has been failure of the joining links connecting two shackles of cable, often when a significant amount of cable was out, in some cases as much as eleven shackles on deck. Although the additional weight of the cable can prevent the vessel dragging anchor, in adverse conditions it will also increase the forces acting on the cable and anchor.

When combined with the significant yawing caused in high winds, and cable lying unused in a chain locker since the last time it was turned end for end, it is unsurprising that several anchor equipment failures have occurred. The issue is further exacerbated when the scope of cable remains constant, causing a single point of loading and wear, for example, where the cable is in contact with the hawse pipe. The indications are that anchor equipment has been failing due to operational issues rather than fabrication defects.

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • Operational limits for anchoring must be sufficiently cautious to ensure weighing anchor is not left too late, risking overloading anchor equipment. If strong winds are forecast, proactive action should be taken to seek a more sheltered anchorage in good time or proceed to sea and ride out the weather.
  • To minimise the wear on the anchoring equipment as far as possible, the anchor in use should be rotated and the scope of cable varied on a regular basis to minimise single point loading. An appropriately experienced crew member should also carry out regular checks on the windlass brake condition and areas where the cable is in contact with the ship.
  • While at anchor for significant periods, ensure all watchkeepers are confident in the actions to be taken in the event of dragging or losing an anchor, and that there is a contingency plan ready for implementation in the event of having to proceed to sea or re-anchor. Watchkeepers and senior officers must be aware of the reporting requirements to the coastal state in the event of losing an anchor so that mitigation measures can be put in place if required.

Also read: Bulk carrier dragging anchor leads to grounding

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202146, that are part of Report Number 347. A selection of this Report will also be published in SWZ|Maritime’s October 2021 issue. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published on SWZ|Maritime’s website.

More reports are needed to keep the scheme interesting and informative. All reports are read only by the Mars coordinator and are treated in the strictest confidence. To submit a report, please use the Mars report form.