Imagine you are out to sea in a small boat. The weather is fine and the tide is low. While enjoying the breeze, cruise, and booze, you notice that you are taking in water!
After a few inspections, you observe a hole in the side of the hull. You try pumping it out but no matter what, more water is coming in than you can discharge.
The worst part is you are a few miles away from the nearest shore. If you keep on, you may well lose the boat since it is already sinking.
What would you do?
Would you abandon your boat or attempt to save it from going under the deep?
One of the sane things to do in this scenario is to find the nearest shallow waters and run your boat in there. This process is called beaching. Many boatmen and seafarers use this technique to save their boats.
You can do a lot while beached.
First, you can assess the situation and try a quick repair. Second, you can pump out the water so you can be ready to sail again. Lastly, you can call the attention of other boatmen nearby and ask them for help.
What is Beaching?
Beaching is a deliberate act of driving a vessel into the beach or shallow waters and thus grounding her intentionally.
That’s right. Grounding is accidental while beaching is a willful maneuver.
Like the soft and sandy beach we have at home, these merchant ships also prefer to beach on soft, sandy, and even muddy grounds or shores.
What is the purpose of beaching?
When you hear news about a ship beaching on a certain shore, this is because of a real emergency. As a seafarer myself, I understand how the crew felt.
Beaching is the last and immediate solution to keep the vessel from sinking.
The ship may not make it if sailed to the nearest port in that condition. That’s why they decide on that method.
Driving a ship near the shore could be disastrous, especially to marine life. However, a constructive total loss of a vessel due to sinking is far more catastrophic.
Thus, Master Mariners must choose which one is the lesser evil.
There are four reasons why seafarers beach a vessel.
- Saving the ship from sinking due to hull damage ( like our example above).
- Saving her cargo like in the case of MSC Napoli.
- Conducting hull repairs on the damaged part so she can re-float (same example above).
- Delivering the vessel to the scrap yard for ship-breaking or recycling.
Most of our nautical terms originated during the time of sails and galleons. Beaching is one of them.
Have you tried visiting a sea shore and seeing small boats on the dry land instead of floating on the waters? If you are like me who lives near the sea, this is a common sight.
Some fishermen carry their boats from the waters up to the beach after fishing. Of course, these are small and they do it with two or three men.
This is how beaching began.
During that time, a beach was not a sexy, fun, or luxurious place.
Dictionaries define beaching as pulling or forcing a boat, out of the water onto the land.
Not only ships but also sea animals like whales beach up ashore.
When the era of galleons came, they continue to practice beaching to careen a ship. Careening means turning the ship to clean the hull.
In other times, they also bream a vessel which means to burn off weeds and barnacles to clean a ship’s bottom.
Now that ships became bigger and heavier, we can’t beach them to dry land. Driving them up to shallow waters is enough.
Tips before beaching a vessel
- Before beaching a vessel, the most important factor to consider is the composition of the sea bottom. Sandy and muddy are the best. You don’t wanna a beach when the seabed is rocky.
- Consider the wind and current.
- What’s the shape of your hull?
- Are there huge surfs forming?
- Check the tide.
- Fill in the ballast tanks as safely as the vessel can take.
- Prepare engines.
- Inform the whole crew to brace for impact.
Notable beaching of a vessel
In January 2007, MSC Napoli conducted a deliberate beaching off the South Coast of England.
The ship lost its watertight integrity and was heavily damaged because of a severe storm. Fearing that the ship may sink anytime soon, the captain ordered an abandon ship on rough a rough weather.
The derelict remained floating and was towed by tugboats. After careful investigation that she won’t hold on much longer, they decided to beach the ship in the Lyme Bay area.
They lost several containers but saved the majority of the cargo and fuel. It was a success in some aspects but was a lengthy period of salvage.
Into the scrap yards
One method of ship disposal is to send it to the scrapyard.
Pakistan and India are home to ship’s final resting places.
The final act of these vessels is beaching the shores of Aliaga, Chittagong, Gadani, etc.
Shipowners sell these vessels to ready scrap buyers.
Many parts of these vessels are then recycled. They are refined and sold back to the market.
However, scrapping vessels are an issue nowadays due to environmental concerns.
May the winds be in your favor.