Traditionally ships were anchored using large hemp hawsers called cables. In 1836 the use of iron chains had become so common in the English merchant service and their superiority so well recognized, that the underwriters ceased to charge a higher insurance rate for vessels using iron chain. In 1840 side welding of chain was introduced in England, and from that time English chains of 1-7/8 inches and larger have been side welded.
Lloyd’s Register of Shipping augmented its rules in 1846 so that thereafter all chains of classed vessels were tested and stamped on each end to indicate load capacity. In 1853 Lloyd’s rules made it mandatory that, before a vessel could be classed, the test of the chain cable had to be certified, and in 1858 Lloyd’s issued rules regarding the length and size of chain cable. Lloyd’s progressively stiffened their rules regarding methods of manufacture and testing, resulting in the Anchors and Chain Cables Act of 1899, which with only a few amendments is still the basis of present-day testing procedures.
He also provides a timeline of anchor chain developments. Here’s an excerpt;
1808: Wrought-iron cables are first recorded.
1834: Lloyd’s Register rules state the length of cable to be supplied, they call for a reduced length for iron cables compared to hemp cables at a 6:7 ratio.
1846: Rules specify that cable must have been tested and have the test load stamped on it.
1856: The rules state that the length and condition of chain cables were to be ascertained by removal from the locker at each special survey.
1890: Lloyd’s Register rules sets a table of minimum weights for cables.
NOTE: This article was originally published in Jan. 2008