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A mooring winch is a piece of marine equipment used during mooring operations to hold a boat in place at a pier or similar fixture. Such winches may also be able to control anchors for mooring when port facilities are not available. They may operate in a number of ways and are fixed in place on the deck of a ship in key positions. This allows sailors to carefully position and secure the ship when it comes into port. When they are not in operation, they may be covered to limit exposure to the elements and reduce the risk of injuries.
The winch contains a drum around which sailors can wrap rope, chain, or cable, depending on the type of ship. In mooring operations, they pay out line from the mooring winch to allow it to reach shore, where personnel attach it to cleats and other points. Sailors can take up the slack on the line to pull the ship snugly into position and keep it there while it is in port. The winches lock so the lines will not release unexpectedly.
Some mooring winches are electric and may be driven by the ship's power plant. They can also be hydraulic or controlled with gas generators. On smaller boats, sailors may power the winches directly with a crank. The best design depends on the type of ship, the weight of the mooring lines, and the likely level of stress they may endure while the ship is in port. Sailors want to avoid incidents, like snapped lines that injure people and put a ship at risk.
Configurations for mooring winch layouts can vary. Typically several can be found at both the bow and stern of the ship to attach key lines. These keep the ship from moving forward or back and secure it to the dock. On very long ships, additional lines may need to run from the side of the ship for extra security or safety.
On deck, sailors can control a mooring winch directly. Some winches also have remote control features to allow sailors to operate the equipment at a distance. Before remote control operation can proceed, the captain needs to clear the deck of unnecessary personnel for safety reasons. The lines can be quite dangerous for unwary sailors and passengers, who may not be aware of the risk if the mooring winch equipment is being operated remotely.