The Anatomy of a Cruise Ship Anchor Chain

Affiliate Disclaimer

You can receive daily cruise news updates directly to your inbox, so you don't miss a thing! Go ahead and Subscribe here.

While it may seem like a relatively simple piece of equipment, a cruise ship’s anchor is a marvel of modern engineering. When you consider the incredible size and weight of a modern-day cruise ship, you begin to realize what an incredibly difficult task is to ensure they are secured in place while they are in the harbor.

Today, we will take an in-depth look at cruise ship anchor chains. Not only will we break down how they work, but we also explore what they are made from, the various components of the chain, and the incredible engineering that goes into ensuring that they can hold a cruise ship in place.

So, if you are ready to learn everything you need to know about a cruise ship anchor chain, let’s get started!

What Is a Cruise Ship Anchor Chain?

While it may seem pretty self-explanatory, a cruise ship anchor chain plays a complex and incredibly important role in ensuring the overall safety of a cruise ship voyage. These massive chains need to withstand the incredible forces exerted on the cruise ship’s anchor when the cruise ship is in the harbor.

To withstand the immense pressure generated by holding a heavy cruise ship in place against tides, waves, and ocean currents, the anchor chain and cables need to be immensely strong, and incredibly flexible. The individual chain links look just like any other type of chain, but they are on a massive scale.

Cruise Ship Anchor Chain
Cruise Ship Anchor Chain (Photo Credit: Nikonaft / Shutterstock)

Each link in the chain is made from high-grade steel with incredible tensile strength. While the chain size will vary depending on the size and weight of the cruise ship, they are all incredibly large and heavy.

Read Also: What is the Draft of a Ship?

In some cases, the waters the cruise ship traverses can also be a factor when determining how large the anchor chain needs to be. For example, large ships that traverse deep waters with strong currents need a much larger anchor and anchor chain than small boats on shallow water that stay close to the coastline.

What Is the Anatomy of a Cruise Ship Anchor?

The traditional anchor chains of a cruise ship may seem like they have a relatively simple design, but they are made up of many different parts, which all have to be made to an extremely high standard.

Here are the main components of a cruise ship anchor chain:

The most prominent component of a cruise ship anchor chain is the series of interconnected links that make up the bulk of the chain. These links are massive in scale, and they need to be constructed of high-tensile, high-strength steel.

The chain design allows for the perfect combination of strength and flexibility, which is necessary when holding a heavy anchor in place against the tremendous forces of a large body of water and heavy vessels.

Anchor Chain LInks
Anchor Chain Links (Photo Credit: QiuJu Song / Shutterstock)

Each link in the chain will look like an elongated oval, or it can be designed to have more of a “D” shape. These two shapes allow the chains to be connected in a way that maintains their strength but can still move smoothly.

All links within the chain are also designed to be the exact same size. They also need to be precisely spaced so that each link has the same freedom to move as the next. If this was not the case, dropping and retrieving the anchor would be much rougher. The chain could also become damaged over time.

The Joining Mechanism

The individual links within the chain are joined together using a detachable mechanism. Basically, this mechanism consists of a connector and an anchor shackle.

Not only does this make it possible to put the chain together, it also makes it possible to remove damaged or corroded links within the chain without completely replacing the entire anchor chain.

Depth Markings

Most cruise ship anchor chains also feature depth markings at evenly spaced-out intervals. These allow crew members to easily determine how much of the chain has been released by the anchor windlass. Typically, these markings are made with bright, scratch-resistant paint; however, they can be made by stamping impressions into the metal.

Anchor Markings
Anchor Markings (Photo Credit: JCAires / Shutterstock)

To learn more about the anchor of a cruise ship, rather than just the chain that connects it to the ship, we recommend reading about how big a cruise ship anchor is. This straightforward guide explains how big these enormous anchors need to be and provides other helpful information on how modern anchors work.

How Much Do Cruise Ship Anchor Chains Weigh?

As mentioned, the anchor weight, chain length, and size of a cruise ship’s chain can vary depending on the weight and dimensions of the cruise ship itself.

That said, the general range for a single link of the anchor’s chain tends to be between 11 lbs (5 kg) to about 290 lbs (130 kg). The longer the chain length, the more it weighs.

Worth Reading: How Much Does a Cruise Ship Weigh?

With individual links weighing so much, the anchor chain’s overall weight can easily be measured in tons. When you think about the weight of a cruise ship and the immense forces sea and ocean water can exert, it only makes sense that the chains need to be incredibly heavy.

What Is a Cruise Ship Anchor Chain Made Of?

Cruise ship anchor chains need to be made from high-strength steel. Steel is the only suitable choice, as it offers the durability and strength required to withstand such immense forces. The high-strength steel alloys used to make these enormous anchor chains are also resistant to corrosion caused by lengthy exposure to saltwater.

Anchor Chain
Anchor Chain (Photo Credit: MIKE MANIATIS / Shutterstock)

To enhance the corrosion resistance of the anchor chain, most are given additional coatings and surface treatments to enhance the anchor chain’s corrosion resistance. Galvanization and various types of specialized coatings are used for the individual links of the anchor chain.

These surface treatments can not only delay corrosion, they can also help prevent scratching as the chain links rub against each other and even the hull. 

Why Do Cruise Ship Anchor Chains Need to Be Flexible?

Not only do cruise ship anchor chains need to be heavy, strong, and incredibly durable, they need to be flexible. Flexibility is essential for the following reasons:

The Ability to Move with Currents, Tidal Changes, and Swell

Even when a cruise ship is anchored in a harbor, the anchor chain must be capable of adjusting to fluctuations in water conditions. The tide can change the depth of the water rapidly, so if the chain is not flexible, it would be under much more tension.

Ship Anchor Chain
Ship Anchor Chain (Photo Credit: Claudio Barrientos / Shutterstock)

This could damage the anchor and the ship itself. By remaining flexible, the anchor chain can also absorb sudden forces caused by large waves and storms.

Noise and Vibration Reduction

A flexible anchor chain creates far less noise when the ship moves. For passengers to have a more comfortable experience while they are on board the ship, flexible anchor chains reduce creaks and other noises that could be disturbing.

Flexibility Makes it Easier to Drop and Retrieve the Anchor

The chain’s flexibility is essential when it comes to dropping and retrieving the anchor. When the anchor is dropped or lifted, the chain flows through a chute on the side of the ship’s bow.

Ship Anchor
Ship Anchor (Photo Credit: D-VISIONS / Shutterstock)

Flexibility Allows the Anchor to Adjust to Differing Seabed Depths and Compositions

As you may know, a seabed in one area can differ in composition from one area to the next. While some are sandy and easy for an anchor to dig into, others are uneven and rocky. By having a strong but flexible anchor chain, the anchor can have a much more stable hold.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the biggest cruise ship anchor chain in the world?

Currently, the world’s largest anchor chain belongs to the Oasis Class cruise ships owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International. These anchor chains weigh between 130 and 160 tons!

Do cruise ship anchor chains ever break?

Although extremely rare, cruise ship anchor chains have been known to break. Typically, this is due to corrosion and long-standing exposure to salty seawater. Overloading the anchor chain by dropping anchor in rough seas can also cause wear and tear. Eventually, this damage could result in the chain breaking.

How often are cruise ship anchor chains inspected?

While the exact frequency of inspections will depend on the particular policies of each cruise line, most anchor chains are inspected as part of the cruise ship’s regular inspection and maintenance procedures. This means a visual inspection usually occurs before each voyage. 

More in-depth inspections are typically conducted at least once a year. During these inspections, each chain link is checked for signs of damage and corrosion. As you would expect, the frequency and closeness of inspections can increase if the crew suspects that the anchor chain could be damaged.

Final Words

While casual cruise-goers often overlook them, there is an incredible amount of engineering that goes into making and maintaining a cruise ship anchor chain. Not only is the scale of the individual links impressive, but the ability of the chain to withstand immense forces is also truly a marvel of maritime engineering.

If you enjoyed the article and would like no fuss daily cruise news to your inbox directly from Cruise Hive, you can Subscribe here.

Up Next


Free expert cruise tips and news from Cruise Hive! We'll send you the latest cruise updates daily to your inbox.

Don't Miss Any Cruise News!

We'll send you the latest cruise updates daily to your inbox.

Copy link