Electrically Operated Windlass For Ship

The windlass including mooring winch machinery is common for both hydraulically operated or electrically operated equipment. In the case of the electrically operated windlass cum mooring winch, the driving motor is a two-speed motor controlled by a suitable pole-changing device.

The lower speed gives higher torque suitable for the initial breaking of the anchor from the ground when more force is required and the design torque provided for this condition is 150% of the full continuous torque for at least  30  minutes. All three-phase induction motors are steady-speed motors with a small variation of load torque.

The speed is fairly high since the frequency is high and to reduce the operating speed electrically is inconvenient since it involves increasing the number of pairs of poles.  To avoid this a double reduction gearbox with oil-lubricated machine-cut gears has to be incorporated in this system.

As per class rules, an overload slip clutch has also to be included for safety since electrical safety cut-outs are time-based and may not cut out when an overload happens suddenly. For these reasons, the electrically operated windlass and mooring winch have their limitations and are used only on small ships.


  • Windlass seating:- The forces acting on the windlass when the ship is anchored is much more than the mass of the windlass and hence have to be specially strengthened,  the details of which are as described and illustrated by the sketch below.

  • The deck plating at the forecastle and main deck in forecastle space scantlings.

  • The windlass is mounted on a  doubler plate welded to the forecastle deck.

  • The deck girders in forecastle space are increased in The deck beams' pitch distance decreased to accommodate more beams.

  • Four round pillars at four corners of the base of the windlass doubler plate connect to the main deck plating to give continuity of strength to the deck.

The windlass machinery is combined with the forward mooring winch as one unit. The main winch consists of a  double reduction gearing arrangement to produce a large torque.

The windlass is arranged on a  further reduction arrangement. The windlass part consists of a  solid cable lifter wheel combined with the brake wheel keyed to a shaft properly supported on two bearings with its clutch arrangement. The clutch connects the cable lifter to the driving gear when the anchor has to be hauled up.

For anchoring purposes, the clutch is released with the cable; the lifter in braked position. When the anchor has to be dropped,  the brake is released and the anchor along with the chain drops by gravity so that it strikes the ground with sufficient force to get entrenched in the mud. The sketch of the windlass part is given under.

Hydraulic Windlass :

The hydraulically operated windlass has larger torque capacities because the hydraulic motor can operate at very low speeds even at  5 to 10 rpm, thereby building a  very high torque.  The torque-speed characteristics of the hydraulic system are much better and more flexible than electrical systems. Their comparison is shown in the sketch given under.

The Hydraulic machine is robust and can withstand a  lot of shocks. The components are less since the double reduction gearbox and the slip clutch are eliminated thereby reducing the cost of the machinery. For safety, a  spring-loaded shock valve is provided in the system which will connect the high-pressure to the low-pressure side when an overload occurs. The hydraulic windlass cum mooring winch is illustrated below.

Hydraulic Windlass

Hydraulic System :

The  hydraulic  system  schematic  sketch below is  illustrated  as The main components  of  this  system consist of  the  following :

  • An expansion tank is located on the forecastle deck to give a good head to the oil to flow.
  • The gear pump is located in the forecastle.
  • The oil storage tank is located in the forecastle store with an attached hand pump to transfer oil to the expansion tank.
  • The hydraulic motor is mounted on the windlass frame and connected to the primary driving  The control block is integral with the motor casing and cut sectional sketch of the motor is illustrated separately.

When the control block is placed in the neutral position the oil flow to the motor is prevented by the blanked connection in the block in this position. When the block is shifted to no 1 position only two paths are connected and the flow quantity being moderate it gives the rated speed and torque.

When it is shifted to the  2nd  position the oil flow has 4  paths and this conforms to the higher torque and speed rating.  This position is used for breaking the anchor hold in the ground and when free the block can be used for lifting the anchor along with the chain  When the block is shifted to the upper  R position the passages in the block are crossed causing the flow of oil in reverse direction thereby turning the motor in the reverse direction.

Variable torque hydraulic system for windlass

For mooring winch operations no 1  and   R positions are used as convenient. For normal anchor lifting, no  1  position is used. For walking back the anchor R position is used. For breaking the anchor from the ground, no 2 positions are used.

When changing over from  1  to  2  more oil is required and this is provided by oil flow from the expansion tank to the pump through a non-return valve. When changing over from  2  to  1  excess oil from the system flows back into the expansion tank by another non-return valve.

Hydraulic motor :

The motor is simple in construction at the same time it is robust and can take a  lot of rough handling. The rotor is a thick disc with rectangular slots cut on the circumference. Each slot accommodates a  thick vane held in place by the cover plate.  The vanes are made to press hard on the casing (internal)  surface by a  bow spring held under the vane.

Hydraulic motor windlass

The rotor is mounted on a strong roller bearing and also carries an oil seal which prevents leakage of oil during operation.

Maintenance :

During layups at special surveys, the end cover is opened up and vanes as well as springs that are damaged are renewed.  The oil seal and roller bearing are also renewed if they are worn out. The sketch of the winch motor with detail of the vane assembly is shown under.

The electric motor driving the gear pump is a three-phase double squirrel cage motor with high slip capability combined with a higher rotor current capacity because of the two layers (radially) of copper bars embedded in the iron rotor. The sketch of this rotor is reproduced as under.

Reference: inaparts.com

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