Ship anchor operation

Ship anchor operation
Ship anchor operation

Anchor watches shall be maintained in accordance with Masters orders. This should include regular inspection of lead and weight on chain. For the safety of ship strict anchor watches must be kept when the ship is at anchor. The principle reason for keeping anchor watches is to maintain the safety and security of the vessel.

The safety of the vessel is upheld by ensuring that the anchor position is maintained, other vessels maintain their position and observing traffic entering and leaving the anchorage. The security of the vessel is maintained by following the ISPS procedures for a vessel at anchor.

The Master’s standing orders must be fully understood regarding anchor watches. You must be sure that you understand the night orders: if in any doubt ask the Master to clarify. The Master is always available to help. If you are thinking about calling the Master then the time has come to call him. Do not hesitate.

Comply with the “COLREGS” for a vessel at anchor. In daylight display a ball in the forepart. At night display an all-round white light in the forepart and a lower all-round white light at the stern. If the vessel is more than 100 meters long working lights must also be used to illuminate the deck. In poor visibility ring the bell rapidly for ten seconds every minute.

If the vessel is more than 100 meters long sound the bell in the forepart of the vessel, immediately afterwards sound the gong for about 5 seconds in the after part of the vessel.

Main engine

The main engine and additional auxiliary engines may have to be at constant readiness. If this is not the case the Chief Engineer will be advised of the notice period required. The amount of notice will be dependent upon :

  1. estimated time at anchor.
  2. type of holding ground.
  3. distance from shore or navigation hazard.
  4. how the vessel is lying to the anchor.
  5. present and forecast weather.
  6. strength of the current or tidal stream.
  7. position of other vessels.
  8. main engine maintenance.

The machinery space may not always be manned. The OOW must have agreed a contact method with the Duty Engineer.

Weather, tidal and sea conditions

Closely monitor the current weather. Inform the Master of any significant change. Confirm the time of weather forecasts from any local source and GMDSS equipment. Have tidal predictions readily available. Be aware of the height of the tide and the tidal range. Note if the vessel is lying to the wind or tidal stream.

Watch Assistants / Lookouts

A good lookout must be maintained when the vessel is at anchor. In addition to the OOW the Rating / Watch Assistant must keep a lookout reporting :

  • any vessel movements.
  • small vessels taking an apparent interest.
  • a change in the weather or visibility.
  • reporting the weight on the cable and how it is leading during regular deck patrols.

Monitoring the position and movements of other vessels

A close watch on other vessels’ positions and movements must be maintained. Use all available means, including visual, radar and the AIS. In particular utilise the radar facility to plot vessels which are close by.

Be aware that other vessels may not be keeping anchor watches. Whenever a vessel close by appears to be dragging or manoeuvring too close to your vessel :

  • call the Master.
  • inform the Duty Engineer.
  • attempt to call the concerned vessel by VHF.
  • inform the port authority/VTS by VHF.
  • use sound signalling apparatus or signal lamp to attract attention.
  • use any immediate means to avoid a collision.

Adverse weather conditions

Careful consideration must be given to either remaining at anchor or weighing anchor and proceeding to sea during adverse conditions. Whenever the decision is to remain at anchor it must be understood that a serious failure of the anchoring system could occur. Consider:

  • deploying more cable.
  • reducing notice on main engines.
  • use of engines to take weight off the cable.

During poor weather the cable must be checked more frequently. Heavy seas and wind may make the vessel yaw and can cause the anchor to breakout from its holding position. Crew members checking the cable should note if the weight on the cable is steady. Sudden changes in cable weight indicate that the vessel is dragging. If the anchor is dragging along the sea bed it may become fouled and the anchor may be lost.

Following are the basic check item that should be taken into account by deck officer while performing anchor watch

  1. Instruction from the Master or Chief Officer.
  2. Ships position w.r.t swinging circle as marked on chart.
  3. Length of anchor chain in use.
  4. Signals, lights, and shapes now in use.
  5. Visitors identity, number, and business.
  6. Onboard work
  7. Carrying out Master’s and Chief Officer’s instruction?
  8. Is deviation of the vessel’s current position from measured position within the value given by master?
  9. Is any oil floating on sea around the vessel?
  10. Is under keel clearance being monitored and any change in UKC on similar heading investigated?
  11. Are regulation signals, lights, and shapes being displayed?
  12. Are VHF receivers set to the correct working / watch channels?
  13. Is there any ship (anchored or underway) that is likely to collide with own vessel?
  14. Reporting and record of necessary matters?
  15. Is the accommodation ladder raised to deck level when not in use?
  16. Is safety net fitted properly?
  17. Is lighting sufficient?
  18. Are any small crafts approaching vessel (ISPS vigilance maintained)?
  19. Is anchor chain monitored for excess weight?
  20. Has OOW confirmed matters to be turned over to successor?
  21. Necessary items entered in Logbook?
  22. Master call during excessive Wind Velocity, reduced visibility or in case Whirling (Yawing) angle.

Anchor and chain damage

When anchor and chain damage resulted from the following causes, they can be covered by insurance as ‘General Average’ sacrifices loss. The Master shall in such cases secure witness statement from external sources if Possible.

a. When the anchor and chain were damaged by Dropping in an emergency in order to avoid an Urgent Danger such as Collision with another ship at sea.

b. When the weather suddenly changed to extraordinary Rough Weather while the vessel was in port and the anchor chains were cut intentionally as an urgent measure to avoid a danger because there was not sufficient time to heave the anchor.

c. When the Main Engine was started in order to avoid an Urgent Danger at anchor, knowing that the anchor could be sacrificed, and consequently, the anchor and chain were cut by an excessive force applied to them.

Damage to the anchor and chain resulting when Re-floating the stranded vessel by making use of the holding power of the anchor. Note :

To effect the ‘General Average’, the anchor must have been abnormally used for common safety. Therefore, the following cases do NOT effect the general average.

Ex.1 As the vessel was carried away by a strong current while maneuvering the vessel at an anchorage, it was anchored in order to avoid grounding, and as a result, the chain was cut. (This is not regarded as an abnormal use of the anchor).

Ex.2 An abrupt storm was encountered while anchoring and vessel tried to shift to a safe anchorage, but the chain got entangled with an obstacle on the seabed and could not be heaved. In order to avoid a common danger, the chain was cut and vessel shifted to a safe anchorage. (Principle of the general average : There can be no sacrifice of an already destroyed substance).

What is general average

The main principles of general average are contained in the York-Antwerp Rules, 1974. The rules define a general average act as follows: “There is a general average act when, and only when, any extraordinary sacrifice or expenditure is intentionally and reasonably made or incurred for the common safety for the purpose of preserving from peril the property involved in a common maritime adventure.”

In the context of marine insurance, the word “average” means a partial loss. General average must be distinguished from “particular average” which means an insured loss. For example, if fire is discovered on board a laden vessel, the following items make up the general average loss :

  1. Cost of damage caused by water or any other methods used to extinguish the fire.
  2. Cost of repair if ship”s structure has to be altered to gain access to fire.
  3. Value of any cargo damaged or jettisoned during efforts to control fire.
  4. Cost of using the ship”s equipment and the wages of the crew during the general average incident.

In another example, if a vessel runs aground in a dangerous position, the following items would make up the general average loss:

  1. Cost of tugs to refloat the vessel, including the value of any salvage award.
  2. Cost of running ship”s engines and other equipment to assist refloating.
  3. Cost of discharging cargo into lighters and the cost of reloading.
  4. Cost of pollution removal if cargo has been jettisoned and the value of the lost cargo.
  5. Stores consumed and wages paid to crew during the general average incident.

It is important to note that items of particular average are not calculated as part of the general average loss. In the grounding and fire situation, for example, damage caused to vessel as a consequence of the grounding would not be a part of the general average loss, but would form a hull an machinery claim.

General average – Assessment and interested parties

The general average incident will necessarily involve some part of the cargo or ship being sacrificed or extra expenditure being incurred to save the entire venture. The interested parties to the maritime venture, normally the ship owner, the cargo owner and the charterer, will compensate the party who has suffered the general average loss by making contributions in proportion to the value of their relative interests in the venture as a whole.

The ship owner’s interest in the venture is determined by the current value of the vessel at the termination of the venture. Time charter hire is normally excluded from owner’s total interest but may be included depending on the terms of the charter. In voyage charters, the amount of bunkers onboard would be included in the ship owner’s valuation.

The time charterer’s interest in the venture is determined by the value of bunkers remaining onboard at the time of the incident, plus the fright at risk on the voyage.

The cargo owner’s interest is determined by the sound market value of the cargo on the last day of discharge.

The assessment of each party’s contribution is called an “average adjustment”. In recent times, the principles by which and adjustment is made are generally governed by the “York-Antwerp Rules, 1974”. The rules ensure that all average adjustments conform to an international standard.

The adjustment is made by an average adjuster. The average adjuster is appointed by the ship owner to collect all the facts surrounding the incident, to collect guarantees from various parties before cargo is discharged, and to ensure payment of the contributions. The adjuster will have all the facts and figures at his disposal, and thus, in addition to calculating the contributions due from each party, he will be requested frequently to adjust any resulting hull claim.

When to declare? The declaration is normally made by the ship owner, but in certain countries any one of the interested parties may initiate an adjustment. A declaration must be made before the delivery of the cargo. Ship owners usually will allow delivery of the cargo when the other interested parties to the venture provide suitable security (usually in the form of average bonds), sufficient to cover their contribution.

Agents / surveyors

Following a general average incident, ship agents and surveyors play a significant role. A ship agent, in addition to the normal duties of port and husbandry agency, will assist the Master in the aftermath of a general average incident to make a declaration which complies with the local law and custom of the port.

Once the average adjuster has confirmed that security has been obtained from all the interested parties, the agent is instructed by the ship owner to permit delivery of the cargo. If cargo has been discharged to lighten the vessel, or cargo has been trans-shipped to a final destination, the agent will be responsible for keeping full and complete records of al movements and expenditure attributable to the general average.

After any incident, a large number of surveyors representing various interests will descend on the vessel. Some of these surveyors will not be involved directly in the general average process, for example, those acting on behalf of hull underwriters, the classification society, or state officials.

However, if it has become necessary to sacrifice or discharge a part of the cargo before arrival at the final destination stated on the bill of lading, the ship owner will appoint surveyors to report on the condition and quantity of cargo. Such surveyors, usually called general average surveyors, will act in the interests of all the parties involved (and may also represent hull and machinery interests). If possible, the account representing expenditure incurred should be examined and approved by the general average surveyor before settlement.

On the other hand, surveyors appointed by cargo interests only represent the interests of their client. They may criticise the action taken by the Master or allege that the vessel was unseaworthy. Therefore, if an incident occurs which may give rise to a general average act and, if time permits (for example, in a grounding incident), the Master should consult owners and cargo interests to discuss the best possible course of action. Prior consultation may resolve disagreements and help to avoid later disputes.

Master’s Role

The Master must be prepared to assume the widest possible role in solving all the problems created by an incident if there is an urgent need to do so and assistance is not readily available. Apart from good seamanship and reasonable judgement, the Master must ensure that the history of the incident is recorded accurately and fully. The record should include details of all actions taken by the various parties involved and include their names and organisations.

If possible, the Master should ensure that a photographic record of the events is made. The Master’s evidence will be crucial as it is usual for a year or more to elapse between the incident and issue of the “Statement of General Average”.

If salvage services are involved, the Master should ensure that a full record is made of the salvor’s actions and the equipment used. This evidence, together with an assessment of the dangers involved, will determine the level of the salvage award.

In most cases of general average, the main evidence used for the adjustment is obtained from the various survey reports. The Master should ensure that a clear and accurate account of events is given to surveyors. The survey reports will be supported by witness statements and the vessel”s records. When draft surveys and other calculations are being performed, it is advisable for the Master to ensure that a responsible officer is on hand to guide and assist the surveyor.

Example checklist of required documents

  1. Casualty reports prepared by the Master.
  2. Survey reports prepared by attending surveyors.
  3. Log extracts and other available records from he vessel.
  4. Copies of communications/instructions relating to the incident.
  5. Statements, which are prepared by owner”s solicitors, taken from personnel involved in the incident.
  6. Details of all expenses incurred as a consequence of the general average act fully supported by invoices (including onward charges for cargo if transshipped).
  7. Salvage award.
  8. Copies of all port papers covering the period during which the incident occurred.
  9. Full cargo manifest and valuation information for cargo.
  10. Vessel”s valuation adjusted for any damage repairs allowable in general average.
  11. Statement of fuels and stores consumed and labour used during the general average act.
  12. All documentation covering the security provided by all interested parties.


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