Anchor losses are on a negative trend – How to improve

There has been a negative trend in the loss of anchors and chains in recent years. The safety, environmental and financial consequences can be severe, and port authorities may hold a vessel responsible for all costs caused by a lost anchor for an unlimited period of time. This technical news focuses on operational challenges, current rules and practices, awareness, lesson learned, and recommendations related to anchor equipment damages/losses.

Anchor Losses are on a negative trend

Relevant for owners, managers, design offices, shipyards and suppliers.

DNV, Gard and The Swedish Club arranged an anchor awareness campaign in 2016 identifying the most frequent technical and operational issues and recommendations for the safe operation of anchors and anchor equipment (see link below).

However, over the last years, especially from 2019 to 2020, an increase of more than 20% of anchor losses/damages has been noted. This high increase may be partly explained by environmental events and the COVID-19 pandemic, where periods spent waiting at anchorage outside ports have increased for some ships, or ships have been temporarily laid up for shorter or longer periods. But for most anchor losses, current rules and best practices have not been adhered to.

Investigations into the root causes of loss of anchor have shown that in most cases, the environmental conditions exceeded the criteria for safe anchoring:

Anchor loss graph
Events causing loss of anchor (Source: The Swedish Club)

There is a general lack of awareness of the environmental loads for which anchoring equipment is designed. Class societies have unified rules for the design of anchoring equipment.

Key principles for safe anchoring

Below are some key principles for safe anchoring, based on DNV Class Rules and IACS Recommendations (references: see below):

Design and selection – rules assumptions and limitations, designed for temporary anchoring in harbour

  • Current velocity: max. 2.5m/s (5 knots)
  • Wind velocity: max. 25m/s (48 knots)
  • No waves
  • Length of chain paid out scope 6–10
  • Good holding ground

However, many anchoring locations are outside sheltered waters, and an equivalent environmental envelope, including wave loads, was found as given by:

  • Current velocity: max. 1.5m/s (3 knots)
  • Wind velocity: max. 11m/s (21 knots)
  • Significant wave height: max. 2m

To achieve the necessary anchor holding power, it is essential that the anchor chain and the fore-runner remain horizontal on the seabed and that good holding ground is available. The ratio between water depth and the length of the chain – the scope number – is a key factor in ensuring this, and class guidance is 6 to 10 scopes.

On-demand webinar: Anchor losses - How we can improve?

As the frequency of anchor losses is increasing and based on numerous requests from customers, DNV together with Gard and The Swedish Club organized this webinar in November 2021.
Watch the video recording and download the presentations

Furthermore, the anchor winch motor is typically designed to lift the anchor and three lengths of chain (82.5m). The 2016 study referred to above revealed that there have been several cases in which the anchor winch was not able to recover the weight of the anchor and the chain due to anchoring in waters that were too deep.

Preventing anchor losses and damages

Some awareness and key focus areas for preventing loss of anchor are listed below:

  • Leave anchorage in time!
  • When temporary laid up, periodically clearing the chain of twists should be noted, it is recommended to heave the anchor once per week.
  • Check the anchor carefully when in dry dock for wear and tear.
  • Check the securing of the D-shackle pin as often as possible.
  • Adjust the brake band when the lining is worn.
  • Read the anchor equipment procedures.
  • Replace the brake lining when required, without delay.
  • Check the condition of all devices for holding the anchor tight in the hawse pipe.
  • Second-hand anchors or chains should not be installed on board the vessel.
  • Watch out for fake certificates. The price of the anchor or the chains may be an indication of the quality.

Also refer to the “Anchor loss – Technical and operational challenges and recommendations” presentation (see link below).


  • Know the limitation of the anchoring equipment and when to leave the anchorage: Make sure that the deck officers know the maximum environmental envelope the equipment can hold, and make sure this is reflected in the shipboard anchoring procedures. If anchoring at one location for more than one week, the anchor should be heaved up to avoid twisting of the chain
  • Training of crew: Properly implement routine inspections and maintenance of essential components of the anchoring equipment. Class should always be contacted when repairs are to be carried out on the anchor and chain.
  • When ordering new ships: Evaluate the possible need for increasing the anchoring equipment beyond minimum IACS class requirements, especially if you will be anchoring in deep waters.

More information is available

  • Webpage Anchor loss prevention - DNV: DNV, Gard and The Swedish Club have analysed damage cases involving loss of anchor and anchor chain, and have identified some frequent causes, both technical and operational. Access to an awareness video from this work can be viewed at this site.
  • DNV rules relevant for anchoring: DNV Rules Pt.3. Ch.11 Sec.1

IACS documents:

  • IACS UR A1 Equipment, providing requirements for anchoring equipment
  • IACS Recommendation 79 Guidance for anchoring equipment in service
  • IACS Recommendation No. 10 Equipment, giving guidance on anchoring equipment for small and special ships, and for the design and testing of anchor windlasses


29 April 2022

IMO maritime safety committee (MSC 105)

The 105th session of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) was held remotely from 20 to 29 April. A wide range of topics was on the agenda, including the safety of ships carrying industrial personnel, the safety of ships relating to the use of fuel oil, and the consideration of a regulatory framework for maritime autonomous surface ships. Requirements reflecting modern systems for maritime distress and safety communication were adopted and interim guidelines for the safety of ships using fuel cell power installations were approved. The development of interim guidelines for ships using ammonia as fuel were initiated.

  • Maritime
11 April 2022

IMO sub-committee on pollution prevention and response (PPR9)

The 9th session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 9) was held remotely from 4 to 8 April 2022. A wide range of topics was on the agenda, including biofouling, ballast water management, black carbon, sewage treatment and marine plastic litter. PPR agreed on draft guidelines on risk and impact assessments of the discharge water from exhaust gas cleaning systems when considering local or regional regulations.

  • Maritime
24 March 2022

SEEMP Part III and the upcoming SEEMP Generator from DNV

Since 2019 ships of 5,000 GT and above have been reporting their fuel oil consumption data mandated by the IMO DCS. From 2023, cargo, cruise and RoPax ships must calculate CII with a required rating of C or better. This means some ships will have to improve their carbon intensity. A verified Ship Operational Carbon Intensity Plan, or SEEMP Part III, is to be kept on board from 1 January 2023 to document how you plan to achieve your CII targets. This statutory news provides an update on the SEEMP Part III and recommends next steps.

  • Maritime
07 March 2022

IMO Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE 8)

The 8th session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE 8) was held remotely from 28 February to 4 March. SSE 8 finalized draft new ventilation requirements for lifeboats and liferafts, and draft new guidelines for the design, construction, installation, testing, maintenance and operation of lifting appliances and anchor handling winches. Good progress was made on the new mandatory requirements to minimize the incidence and consequences of fires on ro-ro passenger ships, and on the work to improve the safety of commercial diving operations.

  • Maritime
14 February 2022

IMO Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW 8)

The 8th session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW 8) was held remotely from 7 to 11 February. Highlighting the human element as a key factor both for safety and environmental protection, HTW 8 agreed on a revised checklist for considering the human element in the review, development and implementation of new and existing IMO requirements. HTW 8 also agreed on amendments to the STCW Convention and Code to accommodate the use of seafarers’ electronic certificates and documents.

  • Maritime
View all