News: Lost anchor incidents in the Mississippi River
03 February 2020
The club has seen a recent surge of incidents involving lost anchors, which are potentially related to high water levels in the Mississippi river.
In the past, high water conditions on the US inland river system followed a well-defined annual schedule. However, in recent years, due to the impact of unpredictable weather there have been higher river levels for longer periods of time. Similarly, the Mississippi River has been experiencing erratic conditions which have resulted in a number of shipping incidents.
The Mississippi’s high water season typically runs from December until May, however extreme water flows can also occur outside these months as a result of heavy summer rains. Long-term forecasts are not always accurate because a huge land mass area and spring snow melt drains into the Mississippi River, and heavy precipitation over that land mass can raise the river level quickly, with little warning.
Last year the United States witnessed its most wet 12 month period ever recorded, and high water levels caused various problems for ships on inland waters resulting in unexpected draft restrictions, restrictions on navigation, groundings, anchor loss, windlass breakdown, etc leading to delays and extra expense. Quite often a number of ships are forced to queue at the mouth of the Mississippi River due to high waters and fast currents.
At some berths near big bends in the river, the ships are prone to experience eddies and change in current direction leading to excessive yaw and shock loads on the anchor chain. In such circumstances, the ships may need tugs to keep them alongside the wharf, even with additional moorings deployed.
Before fixing a voyage, it is suggested to carefully consider and to contract for the reality of high river season, strong currents and rover bed silting. Charterparty should contain some protection against high water expenses like extra tug/pilot expenses and risks of damage and delay associated with same. Needless to add that the ship should be prepared to encounter such situations – ship’s staff briefed, all mooring and anchoring gear should be checked and extra mooring lines should be available.
Prior to calling ports in the Mississippi River, members are recommended to check with local agents or the local club correspondent on the latest update. The latest observations and forecasts for the river can be found at the National Weather Service and US Army Corps of Engineers websites.
Members are also recommended to refer to the club’s article that addresses specific issues concerning lost anchors.