A merchant vessel that is said to be having a “dragging anchor” when the vessel drifts without holding power not withstanding the fact of it being anchored. Dragging anchor has been the cause of several accidents like collision, grounding, or stranding.
The Merchant vessels stay at anchorage for different reasons:
- Staying berthing prospectus
- Cargo discharging and loading
- For effecting of maintenance , hatch cleaning
- Waiting to get Instructions from owners or charters
- Quarantine etc.
The particular reason for a vessel dragging its anchor is due to rough weather conditions. In such cases, it is completely vital for seafarers to get all necessary information to familiarize with the situation and stop the dragging of anchor as much as possible. Some vital parameters that should be considered are:
- Prevailing weather condition of that area
- Safe positioning for anchoring the vessel
- Wind and tidal behaviour of that area
- Contact information of port authorities in situation of assistance required etc.
- At most ports, it is inevitable for a vessel to wait at anchorage and the time at anchorage can be for days or even weeks. During such times, the master and ship crew should see possible dangers to the ship and make all the necessary arrangements.
- A vessel dragging anchor is indeed a threat to itself and equally to other vessels in the vicinity that usually leads to an emergency situation like collision, grounding or stranding, depending on the condition of the ship.
In such cases, a fast assessment of the situation can only be gotten by a vigilant bridge watch, contingency plan to tackle any emergency, fast response and good judgment of the particular situation. It may take some time to weigh the anchor and get the vessel to its complete manoeuvrable condition, but no serious accident should occur if there is enough sea room and time to do so. The following points should be considered by a seafarer before anchoring where dragging anchor is predicated:
- Take on a heavy weather ballast, bearing in mind the stability of the vessel and depth of water below the keel
- Give out more anchor cable depending on the size of the vessel and weather condition
- Preserve a safe distance from other anchored ships, shoals and other dangers, providing room for manoeuvring
- Weigh anchor and have the vessel shifted to different position away from the vicinity of other vessels, provided prior permission is gotten from VTS of that area, port authorities and owner’s orders
- Add to the efficiency of the bridge team by increasing an extra lookout
- Let the main engines be standby for manoeuvrability