Types, Materials, and Maintenance Tips for Anchor Chains

Anchor chains are crucial in keeping marine vessels in place, even in bad weather conditions. They offer a solid connection between the anchor and the ship. It won’t be wrong to say that they are pivots for the safe and tension-free stay of the vessel in the sea.


No one ignores their importance. However, many people don’t have a basic understanding of these chains of anchors. If you are one of those, fret not! This guide will explain all the ins & outs of anchor chains – from their types to maintenance. So, let’s get started!

What Are Anchor Chains?

What Are Anchor Chains

Anchor chains are heavy-duty components of vessels’ anchorage systems that connect the anchor to the ship and ensure the boat stays in one place. The bad weather, wind, or any other external force fails to move the vessel from its position. 


When the ship is anchored, it moves slightly along with the wind. It could cause disturbance and instability. However, the anchor chains keep the vessel still even if the winds or tides exert force against the ship. That’s what the anchor chains are all about – keep the boat stable. 


Usually, the wind is a prominent issue that captains face when they stop the ship at any location. If the vessel uses rope for connection with the anchor, it would be hard for the ship to stay in one place. Wind will easily slide or drift away. 


That drift could result in an accident if more ships stopped together. However, the anchor chains are more vigorous and more powerful. They keep the boat intact in one place by overcoming external forces such as wind, waves, etc.

Importance of Anchor Chain


There are many benefits of using anchor chains over ropes. Many people believe the ropes (used for connecting anchor and ship) are as strong as the chain. That’s a myth – the chains are more powerful and resist external forces such as strong wind, storms, waves, etc.

The ropes may provide connection – but they don’t offer ideal resistance against the external forces. Here are some benefits of using the anchor chains with the vessels:


  • Saves ship from colliding with other vessels
  • Gives a stable experience even when the wind is out of control
  • Keep the boat in one place and avoid its drifting
  • Make the retrieval of Anchor very easy and smooth
  • Strong to bear the external pressure due to its durable make.


The anchor chains are effective in saving the ships in the harshest weather. For example, when many ships are anchored close together using the combination chains, they remain still or stay with minimal movement.


However, If solid winds (like a storm) cause them to move slightly, the ships’ fenders are so good that they absorb minor shocks and prevent damage. If the wind is gentle to moderate, the ships won’t even move. Thanks to the chains that reduce the movement to very minimal movement.

Types of Anchor Chains

Types of Anchor Chains

The good thing about the anchor chains is that they are available in various sizes, thicknesses, and types. It allows the users to choose according to the size of the ship and individual preferences. The big vessels use strong, long, and durable heavy-duty chains. 


On the flip side, the small ships and boats use lightweight and shorter anchor chains per their needs. Here are some common types of anchor chains:


  • Stud Link Chains
  • Open Link Chains
  • Combination Chains
  • Galvanized Anchor Chain
  • Short link chains are suitable for small vessels

1- Stud Link Chains


The stud link chains have a protrusion (similar to a stud) that connects or interlocks with the links next to it. In this way, the whole chain is organized. The protrusion or stuff helps in making a durable chain.


You might need clarification about how the stud connects with the link. Each link in this type has a specific shape or opening where the stud easily fits. These continuous connections of links through studs make them super strong and unbendable chains.


It won’t be wrong to say that the stud link chains are the strongest among the other anchor chain types. They are typically used with the bigger ships that carry heavy loads.  

2- Open Link Chains


These anchor chains are different from the stud link chain as they don’t have any protrusion or stud. Instead, the links connect without any involvement of stud and make the series of connected loops.


As I said, there is no hard body such as a stud, etc., so these chains are flexible and move quickly. They can be changed into different shapes without any issue. Their flexibility makes them suitable for small ships.


You must remember that this type of anchor chain is not very strong and is less effective in keeping the ship in one place when there is a solid or heavy wind. They are suitable for smaller boats that are not heavy and don’t carry heavy loads.

3- Combination Chains


As the name suggests, this type of anchor chain is a combination of both stud link chains and open link chains. Some portion of these chains consists of the stud, and protrusion. This portion gives chains strength and rigidness.


The other portion of this type consists of connected loops without any stud and offers more flexibility. The good thing is that these chains are usable with smaller ships and bigger vessels, depending on their sizes. 

4- Galvanized Anchor Chain


This type of anchor chain is more durable and made to withstand the harshest outdoor conditions. The reason is that the manufacturers apply a zinc coating on these chains, protecting them from rust and other elements.


They are comparatively more expensive as compared to other types. They work just like any other anchor chain mentioned above. Its resistance to corrosion due to the coating makes it stand out. Only those ships use this chain type, which remains in the sea for months.


5- Short Link Chains


These ship anchor chains are slightly different and offer more strength and durability. The reason is that the loops are very close together. The gap between two loops or links is negligible. Unlike open link chains, they are not flexible. They are more rigid, which gives them solidness and strength to bear the pressure and other elements.


Point to Remember: These short link chains typically anchor smaller vessels or boats in one place. They are strong and can even keep the loaded small vessels in one position.

Materials that Make Chains of Anchor

Materials that Make Chains of Anchor

It is noteworthy that different materials are used in making the chains. Those materials differ in terms of their strength, durability, and cost. Here are the most commonly used materials in making anchor chains:


  • Aluminum
  • Galvanized Steel
  • Stainless Steel 
  • High-Tensile Steel


The aluminum material is usually used in inexpensive chains lasting two to three years. This material is lightweight but not very strong. Therefore, it is less prevalent in strong high-end anchor chains.


Galvanized steel is the most widely used material in making anchor chains. Galvanized steel is the one that has a coating of zinc on it. This coating is applied through the galvanization process and imparts corrosion resistance to the steel. The anchor chains made with this material are decently strong. 


Stainless steel is the most expensive material and is only used in premium anchor chains. It consists of chromium metal as an alloy that makes it rust-proof. The anchor chains made with this material are super expensive but offer peace of mind regarding durability.


Last, high-tensile steel is also used in making anchor chains. Its strength is in the middle of galvanized steel and stainless steel. Remember that the anchor chains made with different materials also have different prices.


Anchor ChainsLifespan
Aluminum ChainsLess than 5 years
Galvanized Steel Chains5-10 years 
Stainless Steel Chains15-20 years 
High-Tensile Steel Chains10-15 years


Maintenance Tips for Anchor Chains


In the section above, I have mentioned the lifespan of anchor chains made with different materials. However, the lifespan of the chains can be extended by taking care of them. Similarly, they will get damaged much earlier if you don’t care for them. 


Their proper maintenance is critical, making them stay with you for years. In the section below, I will give you some maintenance tips that will help you prolong the life of your anchor chains.

1- Regular Inspections


The first step is to inspect the anchor chains regularly. This inspection includes a complete checkup of every component of anchor chains. For example, you should look at every chain link or loop to ensure it is in good shape.


In the inspection process, if any part of the chain is getting rusty, take immediate steps, remove the rust, and apply lubricant or paint on it. It will help in minimizing the corrosion. If the corroded parts remain unchecked, they will become fragile, ultimately damaging the chain.

2- Figure Broken Link


The chains undergo high pressure and harsh weather conditions. The chances are high that some links or loops may get broken. If you find any link broken, repair it through welding or other methods.


The chain is a continuous connection of loops. If one loop gets broken, the whole series of loops will be affected, and the chain will be broken. You should pay attention to even the tiny cracks to ensure the chain remains in good shape.

3- Lubricate the Chains


Whether the chain has got rust or not, you should apply grease or any other lubricant on the whole chain. Using lubricants protects the chains from corrosion and the rust that could form over time.


If you have bought a new ship anchor chain, start lubricating it from day one. Do it every 2 weeks, and your chains won’t rust. Moreover, if the chain is already rusty, apply a layer of paint on it. It will stop the rust from growing further. 

4- Remove & Clean salt


The seawater is salty – and can make the chain rusty easily. Therefore, it is recommended that you remove the salty water from the chains when you arrive from the trip or tour. However, the question is how to remove the salty water from the chains.


You can easily do that by rinsing the freshwater with the help of a water pipe. The freshwater will remove all the salty water present on the chain. You won’t have to rub or apply detergent to remove the salt. Simply rinsing fresh water is good enough. 

5- Monitor Anchor Locker


Lockers are the storage area or compartment on the ship. When the anchor chains are not in use, they are placed there. However, it is essential to clean the locker compartment. If there is any moisture, it must be cleaned or removed.


If moisture is present in the locker and you place your chain there, the chances are high that it will get rusty due to the moisture present in the locker. Therefore, monitoring and proper cleaning of the locker is essential.

How to Store Marine Anchor Chain Properly?


The anchor chains can quickly get rust if they make any contact with moisture. Storing them in dry places is essential to avoid their connection with humidity. However, there is no hard, fast rule about where to store.


The vessels come with anchor lockers. These lockers are specialized portions or compartments where the chains are stored. However, cleaning the locker entirely before storing the chains there is mandatory. It will help in removing the moisture.


However, if the chains are not in work, you should find a place that is dry, and is away from the moisture. Store the chains and cover them with a big sheet so the humidity does not reach the anchor chains.

When to Change Your Anchor Chain?


The answer is: It depends! Many factors influence the lifespan and quality of the anchor chains. The regular inspection will help you know whether you should change the anchor chains.

Ideal, change the anchor chain if: 


  • You notice massive wear and tear (extending to many loops and links)
  • You notice severe rust that has weakened the loops
  • You weld any broken part, and it gets broken again (indicating the chains’ degradation.


If the chain is 15 years old, consider changing whether it is in good shape. It will ensure the safety of your vessels. However, if the chain is made from stainless steel, you can keep the chain for up to 20 years.


Warning: If you have an aluminum chain, use it for 4 to 5 years. The reason is that this material needs to be stronger and offer the required durability.



Anchor chains are a must-have for ships. Their functionality helps keep the vessel still in the sea, even in the stormy wind. However, it is vital to have a check on them to ensure that they remain with you for the years to come. 


In this article, I have explained the types, materials, and maintenance tips for those who don’t know much about the chains and their safety. Hopefully, efforts to put this guide up will prove to be helpful for the masses.