Lloyds List – Friday 24 October 2008
ACOUPLE of hundred years ago, ships were frequently blown out of their anchorages on to a lee shore and lost in violent weather. The truth was that the old anchors were not that good and were little more than a last resort in such circumstances, if there was no other chance of clearing the land.
Scroll forward to the present and it is worth asking whether we have advanced very far. Ships are still being blown out of their anchorages in wild weather, notably ships that offer a great deal of windage. Bulk carriers seem particularly prone, as the terminals like them to be made available with as little ballast aboard as possible.
But anchors seem to have barely advanced in holding power or efficiency over the past century, and questions need to be asked about their fitness for purpose aboard big, modern ships. There have been remarkable advances in other areas, notably offshore, where the equipment supplied on board semi-submersible rigs is light-years better in terms of efficiency. Why cannot some of these advances be imported into the shipping industry? Yachts, for goodness sake, have taken these advanced anchors on board, literally.
Shipping likes to stay with what it knows when it comes to something like anchors, which ostensibly do not contribute to the earning power of the ship. It is said that the highly efficient offshore anchors would be too cumbersome to deploy over the bow of a ship.
It is suggested that they would be too big and heavy, and that it would be impossible to stow them satisfactorily in housings that would prevent them being damaged with the ship under way.
There will be mutterings about the costs, and the fact that the financial basis of shipping is different from offshore, where money rarely seems to be a barrier to technological progress.
But the fact is that industry has never tried to design arrangements that would enable such anchors to be deployed. Until we try, we can never find out whether it is possible. Who knows, we might then no longer see big red bulkers on Australian beaches, or carnage on the Rock of Gibraltar.