Sea anchor assists ocean cleanup


The issue of plastic in the oceans is one that concerns sailors and ocean enthusiasts alike. There is evidence of both large plastic “garbage patches” and, possibly more concerning, microplastic particles in waters all over the world. A Netherlands-based nonprofit group called The Ocean Cleanup developed and tested ocean-based booms for collecting waste, but the idea ran into problems on its initial deployment. Now, the Fiorentino Para-Anchor company, which makes parachute-style sea anchors for commercial and recreational use, has tested a large sea anchor designed to stabilize an Ocean Cleanup boom to assist it in trapping ocean plastic.

During testing, the 60-foot-diameter Fiorentino sea anchor was deployed with Ocean Cleanup’s System 001/B plastic retrieval boom from a 240-foot Maersk workboat. “By reducing drift rate with the para-anchor, the 001/B system efficiently collects more plastics,” said Zack Smith, longtime Fiorentino research and design expert. “The main concern was keeping the big chute open in calm seas. This is important in order to reduce shock loading on the 001/B system.” According to Smith, shock loading can occur if the parachute canopy becomes completely closed and is then rapidly yanked open by strong winds. Following several test deployments, floats and weights were added to improve system performance.

Additional testing using the Fiorentino anchor and System 001/B at the Great Pacific Garbage patch in October 2019 has also proven successful.

“We had tried another system,” said Fedde Poppenk, mechanical engineer for The Ocean Cleanup, “but it would go faster than the plastic and not work really effectively or as constantly as we would have liked. Now we have the slowing-down option with a parachute, a drag anchor,” he added. “It’s stable, it doesn’t tangle and it behaves perfectly.”

To check out the initial testing of the Fiorentino para-anchors, visit

By Ocean Navigator