Tag: hydrodynamics

CFD for marine industries

DSA Ocean has extensive experience in conducting hydrodynamic analysis studies for marine industry applications using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). To keep our partners informed of our expanding capabilities, we’ve put together a short sample of our capabilities. From a simple estimate of wind or drag loads on a structure, to complex free-surface wave-structure interaction – we have the experience to efficiently deliver results.

Simulation of a ship hull

  • Quantify hull drag for specified maneuvering conditions.
  • Get ship dynamic response from incident sea state.
  • Quantify wave slamming force.
  • Visualize separated flow regions along the hull.

DSA Ocean’s simulation of a vessel hull using StarCCM+

Simulation of closed and semi-closed fish farm containment systems

  • Determine optimal pump layout for targeted flow magnitude and uniformity.
  • Quantify water residence time.
  • Determine optimal location for oxygen release.
  • Quantify impact of container shape on flow behavior.

DSA Ocean’s CFD Simulation of internal flows in a flexible container

Simulation of moored buoy in extreme wave conditions

  • Quantify hydrodynamic forces on a buoy under a specified extreme wave condition.
  • Determine risk of overtopping

DSA Ocean’s CFD Simulation of a buoy in extreme sea state

Simulation of subsurface buoy

  • Quantify relevant drag coefficients (can be fed into ProteusDS software for subsequent higher fidelity mooring analysis).

DSA Ocean’s CFD simulation of a streamlined subsurface buoy

Contact us

For information, send us an email or give us a call



Why tiny active stabilizers have a large effect on ship roll motions

What do an elephant and a manatee have in common? It might sound like the start of a good joke, but it is pure biology. The answer is they have muscular hydrostats on their faces. The elephant’s trunk and manatee’s highly prehensile snout are both examples of this fantastic mechanical structure. Both animals can use them for gripping and holding things. A muscular hydrostat has no bones to speak of but can make incredibly complex shapes and motion – and even exert tremendous forces. But how do they do this without any bones?

The key is in small groups of muscles. These groups of muscles are clustered and oriented in specific ways, and they each react against each other. When they get their timing right – by contracting and relaxing in harmony – they change the shape of the hydrostat and create this wide range of motion and force. Tiny components work together to have a large effect.

It takes a particular set of circumstances for something tiny to have a large effect. But there are examples everywhere, and the world of ship motion is no exception. Many ships can have dangerously large roll motions in certain ocean conditions. But ship designers have several ways to deal with this problem. One way is with active roll stabilizers. These tend to be extremely tiny devices, especially compared to the size of a ship itself. But when these small components work together and get their timing right, they can have a large effect – and bring roll motions down to much safer levels.

What do these two have in common? The elephant’s trunk and manatee’s snout are both highly prehensile structures. Without any bones, tiny groups of muscles work together to have a large effect on motion and forces.

What are active stabilizers?

Active stabilizers typically look like tiny wings on the hull below the waterline. Often, most hull appendages are fixed on the hull and don’t move around. But in this case, these are referred to as active because they have an actuator that can quickly change their pitch angle.

Active stabilizers reduce uncomfortable or dangerous ship motions

The most severe ship motions and accelerations are often caused or exacerbated by roll. This is because many hull forms are long and slender, without a lot of capability of damping or slowing down this motion. Often, fixed hull features like bilge keels can add some drag to increase damping.

But depending on the requirements of the use of the vessel, it may not be enough. Severe roll motion can lead to large accelerations that cause sea sickness and injuries. Equipment on the ship or the ship hull itself can be damaged, too. So how exactly do active stabilizers work?

Active stabilizers have a foil profile just like airplane wings

Active stabilizers look like tiny wings for a reason: they use the same principles of lift to do their job. Fortunately, because water is so dense compared to air, the lift forces generated are significant, so the stabilizers’ size doesn’t need to be massive to be effective.

The water flowing over the foil generates a powerful lift force. Because the foils jut outward from the hull below the waterline, these lift forces create a sizable torque that can directly affect the ship’s motion in roll. So the real trick with active stabilizers is not about how much force they make but the timing of the pitch angle.

The pitch angle of the foil is critical. The pitch angle of the foil means that the “lift” force on the foil can be directed upwards toward the sea surface or downward toward the seabed. It’s this timing that the active stabilizer needs to get right to make sure the lift force is always creating an anti-roll torque that resists and damps out roll motion on the ship.

You rarely see stabilizers as they are usually under the waterline. These active stabilizers clearly stand out on this 70m yacht while in drydock. Picture credit: Vumedia Group courtesy of Quantum Marine Stabilizers

Timing the anti-roll torque is what’s key to these small stabilizers being so effective

They are substantially better when you compare them to fixed hull appendages like fixed foils or bilge keels that can’t change how their forces are applied. An active stabilizer produces the right amount of stabilizing torque at the right instant in time to keep roll motions under control. Active stabilizers can do a lot, but what kind of alternatives are there?

Active stabilizers aren’t the only solution

There are other tools that ship designers can use to control ship motions, like slosh tanks or U-tube tanks. There are other active devices, too, like gyroscopic stabilizers. Certainly, controlling roll is essential for rounded monohull ships. But certain hull types are much more inherently stable – like multi-hull catamarans, for instance.

How do you find the right size of active stabilizer?

Just because they are small, it doesn’t mean sizing the system is a no-brainer. It is always a good idea to verify the performance of a specific foil and control system. One way to verify this relatively quickly is using a seakeeping analysis tool. In ShipMo3D, there are features for the numerical evaluation of active stabilizers. This is one way to show ship motion in the worst-case scenario but also in a typical sea state with and without active stabilizers.

When do active stabilizers fall flat?

There are a few disadvantages to active stabilizers. Because they work based on hydrodynamic lift, they always need some relative flow in the water, so usually, the ship has to have some forward speed. On top of this, the faster the ship moves, the more effective the active stabilizers work, but the inverse is true, too – the slower the forward speed, the less effective they are.

Active stabilizers may be a slam dunk depending on the specific needs and requirements of the ship design. Still, it may also be a good idea to check out other options like U-tube tanks or gyroscopic stabilizers.

Example time

We can illustrate the effect of active stabilizers on the Generic Frigate using ShipMo3D. Once the Generic Frigate ship model is set up and time-consuming radiation and diffraction calculations are completed, the active stabilizers can be added and adjusted as needed to see the impact on RAO and ship motion. A pair of active stabilizers at midships with a basic roll velocity control reduces the peak roll RAO substantially. The peak RAO in roll is reduced by almost 30%.

The Generic Frigate with active stabilizers. They’re so tiny I added an arrow so you wouldn’t miss them!

The impact on roll RAO of the Generic Frigate with and without active stabilizers. The ship condition is 10 knots forward speed in beam regular waves.

You can see how to set up these active stabilizes using the Stabilizer Generic Frigate project in this video tutorial from our YouTube channel. The Stabilizer parameters are based on the same parameters as in the ShipMo3D validation report.


Active stabilizers are small but effective roll control devices – one among many at the disposal of ship designers. While they are effective, they are not always a slam dunk and require careful consideration and sizing for the ship type.

If you are feeling left out because you don’t have a muscular hydrostat on your face like an elephant or a manatee, don’t worry. It turns out you already have one in your mouth – your tongue!

Next step

Read more on the active stabilizer scenario with the Generic Frigate in the ShipMo3D validation report here.


Read more on the prehensile manatee snout (with pictures!) here.

How antiroll tanks work to passively reduce ship roll

The Hippopotamus has four legs for walking on land, yet it is closely related to whales and dolphins. This shows particularly when it comes to sleep: Hippos can do so underwater. But they don’t have gills like fish – so how do they pull this off without drowning? It turns out they have a built-in reflex that helps them out. A Hippo will automatically gently rise, breathe, and submerge again without waking up. It is all done entirely passively.

When a system works passively, you don’t have to intervene, control, or monitor things closely. It frees you up to do something else (even if it’s sleep!). When it comes to controlling ship motion, a few systems work entirely passively. One example is antiroll tanks. So what are antiroll tanks, and how do they work?

Hippos can sleep underwater but don’t need a snorkel. A reflex lets them passively float to the surface and catch a breath of air without waking up.

What are antiroll tanks?

Antiroll tanks are large chambers partially filled with water on a ship. Typically, these structures take up space across the entire beam of the vessel. Channels may connect more than one chamber to facilitate air and water flow between the chambers. These tanks need to be significant to contain enough water mass that it can influence the motion of the entire ship.

Antiroll tanks can minimize the effects of roll motion on the ship

When designed properly, antiroll tanks can significantly reduce roll motion and acceleration. Reducing these severe motions and accelerations can substantially improve the vessel’s safe operation in unfavourable weather. It makes it easy to do work on the ship in all conditions, and minimizes sea sickness and the potential for damage to equipment, too.

The nature of these tanks is truly all about dynamics.

The significant mass of water in the antiroll tank can shift from one side of the ship to the other. But it takes a certain amount of time to move. As the ship rolls, this out-of-phase motion of water shifting from one side of the ship to the other creates resistance to roll motion.

When the antiroll tanks are designed well, there is both a beneficial static and dynamic effect. The static effect is from the weight of water on one side of the ship, which creates a counter-balancing roll moment that reduces roll motion. The dynamic effect is inertial: when the ship is accelerating in roll in one direction, the mass of water in the tanks is accelerating the other way, absorbing energy and resisting greater roll accelerations.

When do you use antiroll tanks?

It is not always obvious whether you should use antiroll tanks specifically or not. They are one of several options that a ship designer can consider to help improve the performance of a ship. There are always trade-offs in any design process. After all, these tanks use up a large volume on the vessel, so there is less space for cargo or other equipment. So the ship’s performance may be better, but it comes at a cost. There are additional costs as well, as these systems can create large forces within the ship and affect the structural design.

But despite these trade-offs, the safety and performance increase may be worth it. Often, they are well worth considering as an option for narrow ships with a relatively smooth and rounded hull that otherwise little roll damping. One common type of antiroll tank is the U-tube tank.

U-tube antiroll tanks typically have two significant chambers at either side of the ship

A sizable channel connects them at the bottom of the tanks to allow water to flow from one side to the other. An additional connection at the top also provides air pressure balance between the tanks. Without this air connection, the expansion and compression of air create pressures that resist the water flow and can prevent the tanks from working as expected.

These are the most simple antiroll tank design. U-tube tanks can be cost-effective as they are the most straightforward design. However, their antiroll capability depends on the tanks’ size and spacing, which means there is little room for any adjustment once installed. These may work best on ships that keep a relatively consistent displacement through their operation – such as military, coast guard, and pleasure craft. But there are other types of antiroll tanks, too.

The RV Investigator has a U-tube tank to control roll motions in heavy seas. Picture credit: Mike Watson

A free surface tank is like one large container

Unlike a U-tube tank, a free surface tank is like one large tank. It might sound simple, but often there can be a bit of complexity. Often, there are baffles throughout the chamber to help adjust how much time it takes for water to slosh from one end of the tank to the other. This may be important to ensure the tank works as intended but also to help decrease the chance of sizeable internal slamming loads from the sloshing water. The dynamic response can also be adjusted based on the water level in the tank. This makes it more useful for ship designs that may have a broader range of displacement throughout their operational life. But this comes at a cost – more support and control systems are needed to add, remove, and measure the tank’s water level.

How can you properly size an antiroll tank?

Sizing an antiroll tank is not always obvious. Experience with existing vessels is always helpful, but not all designs are identical. Each new ship design comes with specific requirements. One possibility to size an antiroll tank is with seakeeping analysis software. Many seakeeping analysis software tools can compute ship motions in a seaway with and without antiroll tanks. This gives a way to establish the required size of the tank that will have a meaningful impact on ship motion. ShipMo3D is an example of seakeeping analysis software with antiroll tank capabilities like U-tube and slosh tanks.

Let’s look at an example

We can add a U-tube tank to the Generic Frigate model in ShipMo3D to see the effect on motion response. A U-tube tank configuration can be seen in the ShipMo3D validation report in section 10 available on the ShipMo3D website here. Once the U-tube tank is configured in ShipMo3D, it’s a relatively rapid calculation to evaluate the resulting effect on ship motion.

Representative picture of a U-tube tank set up in the Generic Frigate in ShipMo3D

When the right dimensions are set up for the U-tube tank, the resulting impact on ship motion can be dramatic. The plot shows the change in peak roll response for the Generic Frigate with and without the U-tube tank. There’s almost a 50% reduction in roll motion at the roll natural period.

The impact on roll RAO of the Generic Frigate with and without a U-tube tank. Ship condition is 10 knots forward speed in beam regular waves.

You can see how to set up this U-tube tank with the Generic Frigate in this video tutorial from our YouTube channel. The U-tube tank is based on the same parameters as in the ShipMo3D validation report.

It’s time to summarize

Roll motion in heavy seas can often hobble a ship. The result can be Interrupted work, seasickness, and even damaged equipment. Antiroll tanks are one option for ship designers to control roll motion and increase the ship’s safety and performance. The movement of water across the tanks creates resistive weight and inertia that reduces the overall roll of the ship. But they come at a cost – they take up valuable space on the ship and have their structural design requirements, too. Ship designers must carefully evaluate antiroll tanks to ensure they work as expected at sea. Fortunately, many seakeeping analysis programs, such as ShipMo3D, have these capabilities, making evaluating and designing antiroll tanks cost-effective. Well-designed systems that work passively allow you to sleep easily – just like a Hippo who can rest easily under water!

Next step

This particular U-tube tank configuration is detailed in the ShipMo3D validation report. Read more about verifications of functionality like the U-tube tank and comparisons of ship motion predictions to tank scale and full scale ship motion data here.


Why the sensitivity of ship roll damping makes naval architects sweat

Dolphins might act like they have x-ray vision. But it’s not their eyes that help them see through the ground. Their fine-tuned sonar capabilities have made them a valuable part of maritime security and the protection of coasts and harbours for decades. They’re used to living and working in all ranges of conditions, including murky water and acoustically noisy environments – where there are many other animals and lots of marine traffic. Trained Dolphins can easily find intruders or even mines in places and conditions where our own sonar technology completely falls flat. In fact, Dolphins can differentiate between entirely distinct types of metal, like brass, aluminum, and steel, buried almost a meter under the seabed because their natural sonar is so sensitive.

But a high level of sensitivity can be both a blessing and a curse. It can be a curse because seemingly minor changes can cause a completely different response. When it comes to ship motions, roll is extremely sensitive. Small changes in the ship design can result in significant changes in motion characteristics. In this article, we’re going to talk about why naval architects sweat the details to really understand just what will happen to a ship in roll. So why are ship roll motion so sensitive?

Dolphins have sonar so sensitive it can differentiate different metals buried in the soil.

Not all ships have sensitive roll

Barges and multi-hull ships like catamarans and trimarans don’t tend to have sensitive roll. The kind of ships we are talking about are smooth monohull systems. The key is that there is a single primary hull that is relatively slender in terms of length to beam ratio. Often, monohull ships are quite smooth with a round form, which is one crucial reason roll motion is so sensitive. The rounded shape means there is very little damping resistance when it rolls.

What do you mean by resistance?

By resistance, I mean either ocean wave radiation or viscous damping. Barges are large and flat – almost like floating paddles – and their particular shape is ideal for generating waves when rolling. These radiated ocean waves absorb massive energy, making an enormous amount of resistance that slows down barge motion in roll. A multi-hull vessel like a catamaran also does an excellent job of radiating waves when rolling. This is because of the way the flotation hulls are offset from the centerline. But a rounded monohull makes almost no waves when it rolls and, as a result, relies heavily on viscous drag for resistance.

But viscous drag damping doesn’t work very well in oscillation

Even if the ship roll velocities are high, because of the back-and-forth motion, drag loads tend to be weak. Because of the low resistance, even relatively mild ocean wave conditions can lead to significant roll motions and accelerations. This can limit ship operations or, worse, cause injuries. Equipment, cargo, or the ship itself can be damaged, too.

The result is that naval architects spend a lot of time and energy thinking about ship roll

A lot of time and energy goes into the design details of the shape of the hull and appendages that help amplify viscous drag resistance. Features like bilge keels are often added specifically to create viscous resistance to help reduce roll motion. Other technologies can help, including passive and active systems like antiroll tanks and stabilizers, but simple appendages are the most straightforward place to start. But with hull appendages, it’s vital to understand the viscous drag effects reasonably well because of how they can substantially impact roll motion performance. So how is viscous roll damping evaluated?

Slender monohull ships like the Uchuck III can have very round and smooth hulls which can make controlling roll motion a design priority


Hull appendages like rudders and skegs can help with roll damping, but they can only do so much

One way to evaluate roll motion is from physical scale model testing

But this approach is by far the most costly and time-consuming. A scale model of a ship in a wave basin will verify the ship’s expected roll response based on the design details used. But because of the costs involved, it’s not an economically viable approach to iterate on the design of the hull and appendages – it serves more as a confirmation of the expected roll performance. Yet there are alternative numerical methods that work well in evaluating roll.

Roll damping can be computed with Computational Fluid Dynamics tools

These software tools resolve the physics and details of the water flow interacting with the hull and appendages. While they provide a great deal of useful information and are helpful for a degree of design iteration, it can be a computationally costly and time-consuming approach. A tight project timeline won’t leave room for investigating many different loading conditions or design iterations on hull and appendage configurations. But there is more than one numerical approach to resolve ship motion.

Some numerical models use empirical relationships to resolve the viscous forces

Empirical equations describing viscous roll resistance are helpful but have more significant uncertainty than the other approaches. Yet ship designers can use them across various conditions and appendage configurations. They are also very computationally efficient and can help screen out different designs quickly. Dynamic analysis tools like ShipMo3D are designed to set up typical hull design, including appendages and resolve ship motion in a broad range of sea and ship conditions much faster than CFD tools.


The RV Investigator hull is also very smooth, but has multiple tricks to help with stability in roll like bilge keels and an antiroll U-tube tank. Picture credit: Mike Watson

It’s example time

So how much difference can something like bilge keels make to damp roll motion on a smooth bottomed monohull vessel? Here is a comparison of ship roll response of the Generic Frigate computed by ShipMo3D with and without bilge keels.

The ShipMo3D Generic Frigate model with bilge keels on the left and without on the right

A roll decay comparison starting the vessels at 10 degrees shows a significant difference. While bilge keels don’t eliminate roll oscillations entirely, they are substantially better than nothing at reducing roll motion. But this is only the roll decay response. What happens to the ship motion response across a range of wave frequencies? The RAO can give some insight.

In a roll decay test computed by ShipMo3D, bilge keels are significantly better than nothing at reducing roll motions

The RAO gives a broad spectrum idea of how the ship will respond, including at resonance. Often, for slender monohull ships, one of the worst-case loading conditions is in a beam sea. The roll RAO of the Generic Frigate with and without bilge keels in a beam sea condition is illustrated below. The RAO shows that maximum roll motion is reduced by a factor of two! There is also much lower roll motion in the region around the peak as well. This implies that the bilge keels help significantly control roll motion, especially around the natural frequency in roll.

The bilge keels have a substantial effect at reducing the roll RAO peak by a factor of two. This implies significantly lower accelerations and motions especially around the natural roll frequency.

It’s time to summarize

We covered a few details on ship roll response, and now it’s time to review. Roll response is something to get right because the stakes are high – large roll motions can make the ship inoperable, cause injuries, or even damage. Not all ships have sensitive roll response, and usually, it’s an essential issue for monohull vessels. The slender form of the vessel with a rounded bottom means there is little resistance in roll.

These vessels don’t radiate ocean waves very well compared to other vessel forms like barges or multi-hulls like catamarans and trimarans. So monohulls rely almost totally on viscous damping to control roll motions. Viscous forces are weak in the back-and-forth oscillatory motion in roll. So ship designers and naval architects spend a lot of time characterizing the viscous roll effects however they can. Like dolphins measuring different materials through seabed soil and mud layers, ship designers will use whatever tools they can to measure ship roll response.

Next step

Bilge keels are one way to help control roll motion, but there are other systems that help. Anti-roll tanks are another example that can make a big difference on roll activity. Read more on what anti-roll tanks are, how they work, and how to evaluate them in the next article here.

Why it’s hard to distinguish between the effects of buoy and line drag on mooring knockdown

The southern border between the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta is, in places, very irregular. It might even seem to be random at first glance. Yet, there is some logical reasoning behind what is there. This border was measured and established over one hundred years ago – far before GPS or other advanced survey techniques were around to help out. So how was the border established?

It has to do with hydrology. In other words, at the highest peak, the direction of rainfall flow establishes the border. Where rainfall flows to the west, it’s British Columbia, and when it flows to the east, it’s Alberta. It’s this clear reasoning that helps to distinguish things.

But we’re not always so lucky to have something to help distinguish things. At first glance, you might be looking at a seemingly random result without any clue how you landed there. When it comes to oceanographic mooring deflection, there are two primary sources of drag: the buoy and the mooring. However, distinguishing between what is more critical to mooring deflection can be a real challenge.

The southern portion of the border between BC and Alberta highlighted in red is highly irregular, but it’s not random. The direction of the flow of rainfall is used to define the border and distinguish between provinces. Picture credit: Google Maps

The vertical deflection of a mooring is crucial to understand

This vertical deflection, also called knockdown, is an increase in depth of all the mooring components from steady drag loads. Because it’s an increase in depth, you need to watch any parts approaching their depth rating. Flotation that exceeds depth rating may fail and result in the mooring collapsing to the seabed. But knockdown may have detrimental effects on instrumentation data quality, too. But regardless, you can’t get a good idea of mooring knockdown without considering the drag loads on the system.

Why is drag significant in calculating knockdown?

Without any currents and the resulting drag load, subsurface moorings are perfectly vertical in the water column. Knockdown results when a subsurface mooring leans over from the effects of steady loads like current drag. All components on the mooring will have some drag. But often, there are two primary sources of drag that tend to dominate mooring deflection and knockdown. The first is the drag on the primary buoy.

The primary buoy is a significant source of drag for a few reasons

The primary buoy is at or near the top of the mooring and often does the bulk of the work holding everything up in the water column. This means it tends to be relatively large compared to other components. On top of this, generally, but not always, currents tend to be larger higher up in the water column. This means the primary buoy is likely in higher flows than the rest of the mooring. Drag is proportional to structure size and flow speed, which explains why the primary buoy is a significant source of total drag on the mooring. But it’s not the only source to consider. The other source of drag to consider is the mooring line itself.

The NOAA CO-OPS DWEAB mooring uses a low-profile Mooring Systems Inc ellipsoid buoy. Picture credit: Laura Fiorentino

At first glance, a mooring line may seem minuscule compared to the primary buoy

Often the diameter of the mooring wire is only a tiny fraction of the size of the primary buoy. But the problem is that the drag area of the mooring is a function of both the diameter and the mooring length. When you consider the entire length of the mooring, the drag area can often be comparable to the top float. There is often at least some kind of current profile through the water column, and this means there can be a substantial amount of drag that accumulates over the whole system.

However, there are more details to the drag on the mooring than the drag area. The actual current profile is vital to get right. The inclination angle the mooring makes in the flow is a factor, too. The effect of inclination on drag is not something you can estimate as quickly by hand as by comparing drag areas. But suffice to say, it’s important enough that you shouldn’t ignore it, and it may even surprise you how important it can be.

How are these effects calculated?

Mooring deflection is typically calculated using well-established numerical techniques that factor in all mooring components, dimensions, and forces in a specific current profile. Purpose-built software like ProteusDS Oceanographic uses geometry, weight and buoyancy of the parts, and typical drag parameters to resolve the mooring deflection. The mooring deflection is a calculation of all these effects together.

So what’s more important: mooring or buoy drag?

It’s not easy to know, in general, what is more important. But we can use a validated example to show mooring and buoy drag contributions. NOAA CO-OPS uses the Deep Water Elliptical ADCP Buoy (DWEAB) design as a standardized design to measure the top portion of the current profile in various locations in the coastal United States. In a recent deployment in a high current region of the Gulf Stream, mooring knockdown field measurements show 48m in 2m/s flow. Mooring knockdown calculated by ProteusDS Oceanographic reached 52m in a 2m/s flow, reaching reasonably close to the field data results. The primary buoy is a large 58″ Mooring Systems Inc Elliptical float, while the mooring is only a 1/4″ in diameter. At first glance, it may seem like the primary buoy would dominate the mooring deflection because of its larger drag area. So how can we get an idea of how much buoy and mooring drag contribute to the knockdown?

To conceptually illustrate this, we looked at two additional load cases. Mooring deflection was calculated with drag on the primary buoy turned off and then again with the drag on the mooring line turned off.

The resulting numerically calculated knockdown with only primary buoy drag was 25m, while the knockdown with only mooring drag was 20m. Note that the total expected knockdown is not calculated by adding these deflections together. This particular example aims to give a rough idea about their contributions to the mooring knockdown for this system. In this specific example, the mooring drag is almost as significant as the buoy drag.

The 200m long DWEAB mooring deflection to scale in 325m water depth in 2m/s current

What if you don’t know the current profile ahead of a deployment?

A knockdown calculation is only as good as the information you have. Of course, before deployment, you may not have much information about the water flow in a region. In this case, it helps to think more about the boundaries of the problem rather than finding the most accurate or probably current profile. The most conservative approach is a uniform current profile. But that may only be appropriate in areas of intense flow. A linear shear, or power profile, may be more realistic. Still, it’s up to the designer to use their judgement and experience for what works best.


Mooring knockdown is crucial to understand ahead of deployment. This deflection can compromise data quality and damage equipment if depth ratings are exceeded. Knockdown happens in subsurface moorings as it leans over from steady current drag. The primary buoy is often a sizable source of drag in the system. But it’s a mistake to ignore the drag from the mooring line because it can make a surprising contribution to deflection. Unlike considering rainfall to determine a border between two Canadian provinces, there isn’t a way to easily distinguish the contribution of deflection from the primary buoy and mooring. Instead, the best approach is to make sure your analysis considers drag from all components at some point in the design process.

Next step

As we saw with the DWEAB mooring in the high flow Gulf Stream current, drag loads can be a dominating, even overwhelming, force. But there are times when drag doesn’t do much at all to floating systems, even if there is a lot of motion. Read the next article here about why viscous drag forces can be underwhelming at damping floating system motion.


Thanks to Laura Fiorentino and Robert Heitsenrether from NOAA CO-OPS for providing data and pictures for the DWEAB mooring deployment used in the example.


Download and explore the ProteusDS Oceanographic DWEAB 325m mooring file in the collection of designs available for download here.