My watch list  

Free surface effect

The free surface effect is one of the mechanisms where a ship can become unstable and capsize. It refers to the tendency of liquids — and of aggregates of small solid objects, like seeds, gravel, or crushed ore which can act as liquids — to move in response to changes in the attitude of a ship's decks in reaction to sea states.

The effect can become a problem in a ship with a single large water tank, located on its centerline. If the tank is full, there is no change in the loading of the mass, or the ship's center of gravity as it rolls from side to side in heavy seas. If the tank is only half-full, however, the water in the tank will respond to the ship's rolls. As the ship rolls to port, for example, the water will move so that much of it is now on the port side of the ship, and will move the ship's center of gravity towards the port. This has the effect of slowing the ship's return to vertical.

The effect becomes worse if the ship is rolling through the vertical towards the starboard. The water in the tank will only begin to move towards the starboard side of the tank after the ship has passed vertical. The water moving in the ship's tank then slams into the starboard side of the ship, often with the effect of causing the ship to heel further over, as that mass hits the bulkheads of the tank. In heavy sea states, this can become a positive feedback loop, causing each rock to become more and more extreme, until the ship capsizes.

To avoid this hazard, cargo vessels use several tanks, not a single one, to minimize the free surface effect on the ship as a whole. Keeping tanks full is another way to minimize the effect and its attendant problems.

See also

  • Metacentric height
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Free_surface_effect". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE