Dragging the Chain

Deep-water vessels are essential to the nation’s trade links; more than 11,000 vessels visit Australian ports annually, supporting an industry worth $200 billion every year. This project aims to consider how these ships, which can have anchor chains up to a 100 metres in length, impact upon the ocean floor at popular ports.

This project examines the effect of deep-water anchors on the seabed of Australia’s east coast. The project is mapping the sea floor along the strip where the deep-water ships anchor at Port Kembla, approximately three nautical miles off shore, to investigate the impact on the environment and marine life. By using innovative technologies, including swath mapping, underwater video and 3D imagery, the researchers have navigated the challenging underwater environment with the findings to then be disseminated to coastal zone managers.

“We’re bringing together government, both state and federal, and environmental agencies to examine the practices of the deep-water vessels,” Ms Broad said.

“We will look at how many ships are anchored offshore and how much damage is being done. A lot of marine life passes through this area. 

“We will test the biodiversity in the areas that have been impacted versus the non-impacted area. The aim is to ensure the sustainable use and development of this coastal zone.” 

Ms Broad said the project will have implications for coastal zones around the world, in both tropical and temperate climates, and would allow the University of Wollongong to position itself as a world leader in sustaining marine environments. 

Dragging the Chain

Outcomes and publications

In the media


The team

Dragging the Chain brings together researchers from environmental, law, marine research and business backgrounds.

  • Professor Andy Davis is the former Director of the Institute for Conservation Biology and Environmental Management and is a marine ecologist in UOW’s Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health.
  • Allison Broad is an Early Career Researcher in Marine Science in the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Life Sciences at UOW
  • Matt Rees has completed his doctoral degree in the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Life Sciences at UOW and a post-doc at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Western Australia. He is currently a fisheries scientist at the NSW Department of Primary Industries
  • Professor Warwick Gullett is the Dean of Law at UOW and the former Deputy Director of ANCORS
  • Associate Professor James Reveley is a management scholar in UOW’s Faculty of Business and Law
  • Professor Clive Schofield is a political geographer and international legal scholar whose research interests relate to international boundaries and particularly maritime boundary delimitation and marine jurisdictional issues. 


This project is working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 14: Life Below Water .  Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals