The Free Surface Effect

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bow view of a vessel with a full tank.

When a vessel with full tanks heels over, the contents of the tank do not shift. The tank's centre of gravity does not change, so it does not affect the vessel's stability.  

bow view of a vessel with a partially filled tank.

In a partly filled tank or fish hold, the contents will shift with the movement of the boat. This "free surface" effect increases the danger of capsizing.  

bow view of a vessel with two partially filled compartments.

When a vessel with partially filled spaces heels over, the contents of the spaces will shift. The centre of gravity moves over to the side, making the vessel less stable. To avoid this free surface effect, try to have as few partially filled tanks and compartments as possible.  

a compartmentalized vessel.

You cannot always avoid partly filled spaces. By dividing a tank into two equal parts with a baffle, the free surface effect is greatly reduced. Using boards to divide fish wells into compartments will also help.  

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