Real Life Incident: Anchoring Kerfuffle

A tanker arrived at a busy anchorage for bunkering and provisions. With pilot on board, they prepared to drop the port anchor at the designated anchorage. After preparations were completed the port anchor was let go on the brake, with instructions to secure it with seven shackles in the water. During the operation the anchor and chain took on too much momentum and the brake could not stop the outflow of chain. The anchor was presumed lost.

Having consulted with the pilot, and in view of the surrounding traffic, the Master instructed the anchoring team to prepare and lower the starboard anchor with the windlass in gear in order to safely complete the anchoring operation.

Anchoring Kerfuffle
Image for representation purpose only

The port anchor chain was then heaved up. It was found that the anchor was not, in fact, lost; the bitter end had remained secured. However, when the port anchor was heaved up, it could not be secured because it had become entangled with the starboard anchor chain.

The company investigation found that the port anchor brake was not working properly; it did not move before the brake reached the 90% open position. If the equipment had been in good condition, the anchor chain could have been controlled.

Also, the investigation found that after the port anchor chain paid out uncontrollably, the actual condition of the port anchor was not correctly assessed/communicated to the bridge. Had this been done, the starboard anchor would not have been deployed and the incident would have been avoided.

Lessons learned

  • Anchor brake maintenance is a crucial element in safe operations. The uncontrolled descent of an anchor chain can not only pose a significant risk of losing an anchor, but also poses a lethal hazard to crew.
  • During and after an incident it is sometimes difficult to assess and communicate the state of affairs – yet this is what is needed for ships’ leaders to make the right decisions going forward.

Reference: The Nautical Institute

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