New eco-moor­ing may end anchor bans

Yachting Monthly - - NEWS -

Tri­als of a new kind of eco-moor­ing are un­der­way in the South West which en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists be­lieve could ease con­flict over sailors anchoring in Marine Pro­tected Ar­eas (MPAS).

The Na­tional Marine Aquar­ium (NMA) has laid five Stir­ling Eco-moor­ings at Cawsand Bay in Corn­wall as part of a joint pro­ject in­volv­ing Princess Yachts and the Marine Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety (MCS).

If suc­cess­ful, these types of moor­ings could be in­stalled at other MPAS around the UK coast.

They dif­fer from stan­dard moor­ings by us­ing a two-me­tre screw pile rather than a tra­di­tional con­crete block to anchor to the sea bed, help­ing to re­duce any dam­age to the sea floor. The NMA Stir­ling Eco Moor­ing, which is a chain, with small buoys at­tached along its length, is then con­nected to each pile, al­low­ing the chain to be lifted to the larger buoy on the sur­face. The ver­ti­cal uplift ca­pac­ity of the screw pile is re­ported to be over nine tonnes, com­pared to one tonne if us­ing a twotonne con­crete block. This means the riser chain is not sweep­ing through vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas, like sea­grass beds.

The MCS prin­ci­pal spe­cial­ist on MPAS, Dr Jean-luc Solandt, said at Cawsand it is hoped the moor­ings will re­sult in the re­cov­ery of dam­aged sea­grass beds.

‘If the pro­ject is suc­cess­ful we hope it will lead to other ar­eas us­ing this cheap and prac­ti­cal tech­nol­ogy where there has been an­i­mos­ity between lo­cal con­ser­va­tion­ists and boat own­ers over calls for anchor bans,’ he stressed. ‘These eco op­tions of­fer a po­ten­tial so­lu­tion to fu­ture stand-offs,’ added Dr Solandt.

Sea­grass mead­ows are a cru­cial part of the marine ecosys­tem, sta­bil­is­ing sea beds, and host­ing lar­val and ju­ve­nile fish and sea­horses.

The NMA has been test­ing pro­to­types of the Ster­ling Eco-moor­ing along Devon’s south coast for the last four years, and it is the fund­ing from Princess Yachts that has al­lowed it to pro­duce a fin­ished de­sign.

The tri­als are be­ing wel­comed by the com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion, Boat Own­ers Re­sponse Group (BORG) which pro­motes rights of nav­i­ga­tion, anchoring and moor­ing for boaters in the con­text of marine con­ser­va­tion zones and other leg­is­la­tion.

It is, how­ever, call­ing for the new sys­tem to be ‘rig­or­ously tested in real-life con­di­tions’.

‘Does the sys­tem, with its mul­ti­ple mini-cate­nar­ies sus­pended from floats, of­fer ad­e­quate shock pro­tec­tion from wave im­pact? Will the line of floats and chain get tan­gled up in heavy break­ing seas?’ ques­tioned BORG’S spokesman Michael Si­mons.

‘And while the six mini-floats shown in calm wa­ter are clus­tered close to­gether, what hap­pens in Force 4 or Force 6 con­di­tions? Will the line of floats and chain get stretched out by the wind and waves to form a hard-tosee trip-wire (trip-chain) for pass­ing ves­sels, snag­ging keels or de­stroy­ing pro­pel­lers? And if so, who is li­able for the re­sult­ing dam­age?’

Jon Reed, also from BORG, out­lined a num­ber of tech­ni­cal is­sues with de­ploy­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly moor­ings in UK wa­ters in­clud­ing in­creased costs, and the fact they don’t work as a dry­ing moor­ing.

BORG also be­lieves that anchoring in eel­grass, ‘causes lit­tle dis­tur­bance, a view backed by many sci­en­tific pa­pers and mem­bers’ ob­ser­va­tions.’

It said a 2018 study showed Dorset’s Stud­land Bay had the high­est den­sity of sea­grass plants and most con­sis­tent sea­grass meadow out of 13 eel­grass sites sur­veyed along the south coast, even though it is pop­u­lar with boaters.

ABOVE: Each moor­ing is se­cured to the seabed by a two-me­tre screw pile, which has a ver­ti­cal lift ca­pac­ity of over nine tonnes

Sub­sur­face buoys means the riser chain is lifted above the sea bed

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