Scientists to Study Anchor Damage to Sea Floor

Professor Andy Davis
Professor Andy Davis and his assistant Allison Broad

Published Sep 9, 2015 8:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

The University of Wollongong in Australia has initiated a study on the effect of anchors and anchor chains on the ocean floor near Australia’s busiest ports, including Port Kembla, Newcastle, Port Dampier in Western Australia’s Pilbara region and Townsville on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

Marine biologist Professor Andy Davis  said preliminary mapping and 3D imagery of the sea floor three nautical miles from Port Kembla had revealed the anchor chains of more than 250 meters in length, with individual links up to 200 kilograms, are dragging across seafloor habitat.

“Preliminary mapping has confirmed anchoring is occurring on reef near Port Kembla. This may well have damaging environmental impacts on important habitat-forming marine species with implications for fish populations. We will now seek to identify areas of high conservation value, then identify how these areas may best be conserved.”

Davis, a member of the Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Solutions at UOW, said the project is the first of its kind to research the impact of anchors on the marine environment, with the aim of creating sustainable anchoring practices throughout the world. Davis hopes to work closely with the shipping industry to achieve this goal.

“There is a huge knowledge gap in the impact of deep-water vessels on environmental habitats. Even the shipping industry’s code of practice fails to recognize anchor scour as an important environmental threat. We are focusing on Port Kembla to begin with, but as each port and region is different, the impact on the ocean floor may vary dramatically from port to port,” he said.

Davis and his team have already been liaising with government, both state and federal, members of the shipping industry and environmental agencies to examine how much damage results from the 11,000 vessels that visit Australian ports annually and how impacts may be mitigated.