Surrounding circumstances and conditions are probably the greatest variables when the ship is at sea. It may become necessary all of a sudden to drop anchor in an emergency in case of steering failure, probable collision, manoeuvring in shallow waters etc.
Usually, letting go (dropping of anchor) is done to reduce the speed of the vessel as swiftly as possible to prevent any forthcoming mishap. When such an action is taken at sea, there’s barely any time to walk back the anchor which means the action to be taken by the responsible officer is to be firmly made in limited time.
Letting Go (Dropping) Ship Anchor in an Emergency
The following points must be kept in mind when letting go anchor in an emergency:
1. The Officer must be at the forecastle with a portable VHF, a torch and their paraphernalia to release the bow stoppers. While clearing away anchor in the previous operation, the brakes as well as the bow stoppers must be checked for efficient operation.
2. The Ship sides must be checked for boats, skiffs, tugs, barges and other such obstructions, especially below the anchor; obviously, this is to be done to prevent harm to a third party.
3. The Officer must be in constant parley with the Bridge to relay and receive orders to and from the Master. This includes information about where and which anchor to let go and how many shackles as well.
4. The Officer must open the take and let the anchor run out directly from the hawed pipe, as and when the required information is received. There’s no time to walk back anchor in this case due to probable imminent danger.
5. The cable must be checked at all time to count the number of shackles passed as per orders from the bridge.
6. In case there’s too much cable paid out without keeping an eye on it, the anchor tends to hold tight causing the cable to part by the vessel’s momentum.
7. In case there’s less cable paid out, the anchor won’t really make the required full contact with the seabed, defeating the very purpose of dropping it in the first place.
8. The number of shackles paid out is normally in the region of two to three times the depth of water. The whole point of this emergency operation is to enable the ship anchor to drag along the seabed bottom, providing maximum resistance to the movement of the vessel without causing damage to the anchor or the vessel.
9. The Officer undertaking the operation must be at all times aware that there is another anchor at his disposal which might need to be used.
As with any emergency operation, dropping anchor under the circumstances requires swift action that can prevent any imminent danger. The handling of the vessel and her anchor will differ as per the characteristics but the above points give a general direction to the procedure that is required in such a case.
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Shilavadra Bhattacharjee is a shipbroker with a background in commercial operations after having sailed onboard as a Third Officer. His interests primarily lie in the energy sector, books and travelling.