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Steel Shackle

Shackles - The Ultimate Guide for Lifting, Rigging, and Towing in 2024

By: Dawnerz


Time to read 8 min

For centuries, shackles have played a vital role in securing and lifting heavy objects. These seemingly simple U- or O-shaped metal connectors are the workhorses of the lifting, rigging, and towing industries. But with great strength comes great responsibility. Using the wrong shackle or exceeding its capacity can lead to disastrous consequences. This guide will equip you with the knowledge to choose the right shackle for the job and ensure safe and efficient operations.

Understanding A Shackles Anatomy

A typical shackle consists of several key parts:

Body (also called bail or dee): The main U- or O-shaped component providing overall structure and strength.

Ears: The openings on either side of the body where the pin fits through.

Pin: The removable metal rod securing the opening. Pin types vary depending on the shackle design (screw pin, bolt type, round pin). We'll explore these later.

Shoulder: The reinforced area where the pin meets the body, designed to handle pulling forces.

Shackle Infographic showing parts

A World Beyond Basic Shapes

While U-shaped and D-shaped are common, the shackle world offers more variety:

Wide Body Shackles:  Feature an extra-wide opening to accommodate thicker wires, ropes, or multiple slings.

Long Reach Shackles:  Have an elongated body for additional clearance between the shackle and the lifting point. Useful for bulky objects or limited space.

Specialized Shackles - Beyond the Basics

An anchor or chain shackle might be your go-to choice for many towing situations, but there are times when a more specialized tool is needed. 

Here, we explore some of the essential specialized shackles that can enhance your towing and recovery operations:

Synthetic Sling Shackles

Problem:  Standard shackles can pinch or bunch synthetic slings, reducing their WLL and potentially damaging the sling fibers.

Solution:  Synthetic sling shackles boast a wider bow specifically designed to accommodate synthetic web slings or roundslings. This wider opening allows the sling to sit flat, preventing bunching and ensuring the sling utilizes its full rated capacity (WLL).


  • Maximizes the WLL of synthetic slings.

  • Reduces wear and tear on the sling.

  • Available in screw pin or bolt type for secure fastening.

Web Sling Saver Shackle - Red

Wide Body Shackles

Applications:  Ideal for use with high-capacity synthetic slings, roundslings, or even wire rope slings.

Important Note:  When using a wide body shackle with wire rope, ensure the shackle's inner diameter is equal to or greater than the wire rope diameter.


  • Increased surface area for the sling to bear on, resulting in a better  D/d ratio  (diameter of the pin to diameter of the wire rope/sling). This translates to improved service life for the sling.

  • Eliminates the need for a thimble eye on the wire rope sling.

  • Prevents kinking and bunching of the sling around the bow, reducing wear and tear.

Crosby Wide Body Shackle

Long Reach Shackles

Applications:  Perfect for construction scenarios where a longer reach is required to connect to specific pick points. They can also be used as a bail for lifting bulky objects.


  • Extended reach allows for easier connection to lifting points in tight spaces or with obstacles in the way.
  • Can function as a lifting bail for objects with wide clearances.
Crosby Long Reach Shackle

Sheet Pile Shackles

Applications:  Live up to their name – specifically designed for pulling sheet piles (interlocking walls) in construction or marine environments.

Unique Feature:  These shackles often come with an easy opening pin that remains captive (attached to the shackle body). This prevents accidental detachment and loss of the pin during operation.

By understanding these specialized shackle options, you can select the right tool for the job, ensuring efficient, safe, and damage-free towing and recovery operations.

Red and Yellow Sheet Pile Shackle

Selecting the Right Material for Your Shackle

The material you choose for your shackle hinges on several factors:

Working Load Limit (WLL):  The material's inherent strength must safely handle the intended load.

Application Environment:  Consider corrosion resistance needs (e.g., marine environments).

Weight Limitations:  Explore lighter options like alloy steel or synthetics if weight is critical.

Budget: Balance cost with project requirements.

Here's a breakdown of common shackle materials:

Carbon Steel:  The most common and cost-effective choice, offering a good balance of strength and affordability. Ideal for general-purpose lifting where weight isn't a major concern. However, it's susceptible to rust and corrosion.

Alloy Steel:  Provides a higher strength-to-weight ratio than carbon steel, making it suitable for heavy-duty lifting without excessive weight. Used in construction, mining, and offshore applications. While stronger, it can be more expensive and require additional maintenance to prevent corrosion.

Stainless Steel:  The champion of corrosion resistance, ideal for marine environments, chemical plants, or areas with high moisture or exposure to corrosive elements. However, stainless steel shackles are typically the most expensive option and may not be as strong as some alloy steel varieties.

Synthetic Materials:  Emerging technologies have introduced synthetic shackles made from high-strength fibers like Dyneema®. These offer exceptional strength-to-weight ratios, making them ideal for weight reduction in confined spaces or for weight-sensitive equipment. However, synthetic shackles may not be as durable as metal options and might have specific temperature limitations.

Shackle Materials - Steel and Synthetic

Understanding WLL vs. MBS - Choosing Wisely

Shackles come with two crucial weight ratings:

Working Load Limit (WLL):  The maximum safe working weight a shackle can handle on a regular basis. Exceeding the working load limit can lead to catastrophic failure. A safety factor is typically incorporated into the WLL, but exceeding it's never recommended.

Breaking Strength (MBS):  The minimum breaking strength is the theoretical maximum weight a shackle can withstand before breaking. It's a laboratory-tested value and shouldn't be considered a safe working load.

Always select a shackle with a WLL exceeding the intended load. A common practice is to choose a shackle with a WLL at least 4 times the working load. This provides a safety buffer for unexpected forces or shock loads.

Additional Considerations

Environmental factors:  Harsh environments can reduce a shackle's WLL. Consult the manufacturer's specifications for derating factors.

Shackle wear and tear:  Regularly inspect shackles for damage or deformation, as a compromised shackle can have a reduced WLL.

Environmental factors:  Harsh environments can reduce a shackle's WLL. Consult the manufacturer's specifications for derating factors.

Shackle wear and tear:  Regularly inspect shackles for damage or deformation, as a compromised shackle can have a reduced WLL.

Ensuring Safety Through Certification and Testing

Shackles may seem like simple tools, but they play a critical role in lifting and rigging operations. To guarantee their reliability and safety, several certification and testing standards have been established. Understanding these standards helps you choose the right shackles for the job and ensures your lifting operations adhere to best practices.

ASME B30.26: A Rigging Standard for Everyday Use - Published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), B30.26 is a widely recognized standard for the safe use of lifting slings and rigging hardware. This standard covers various aspects of shackle use, including:

  • Marking and Identification: It mandates clear markings on the shackle body and pin, specifying the WLL, material type, and manufacturer. This ensures easy identification and proper load capacity awareness.
  • Proof Load Testing: The standard recommends proof load testing of shackles to verify their ability to withstand a specific load exceeding the WLL. This helps identify any manufacturing defects or weaknesses.
  • Inspection and Maintenance: B30.26 emphasizes the importance of regular inspections to identify wear, tear, or damage that could affect the shackle's performance.

Classification Societies and Marine Applications: ABS, DNV, and Lloyds - For lifting operations in maritime environments, additional certifications from classification societies like ABS (American Bureau of Shipping), DNV (Det Norske Veritas), and Lloyds Register may be required. These societies set stringent standards for materials, manufacturing processes, and testing procedures specific to the harsh marine environment. Shackles used offshore or on ships typically undergo rigorous testing and certification by these organizations.

Ensuring Offshore Safety: RR-C-271H - Developed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), RR-C-271H is a recommended practice for design and operation of offshore lifting equipment. This standard provides specific requirements for shackles used in the offshore oil and gas industry. One key requirement is that shackles meet a Charpy impact test with a minimum average value of 31 ft-lb (42 joules) at -4°F (-20°C) . This test measures the material's toughness at low temperatures, crucial for ensuring safe performance in offshore environments.

By understanding these certification and testing requirements, you can select shackles that meet the specific demands of your lifting operation. Always refer to manufacturer specifications, relevant safety standards, and consult with qualified lifting professionals when choosing shackles for critical applications.

Here's a table summarizing the key points:

Standard / Certification Focus Key Considerations for Shackles
ASME B30.26 Safe use of lifting slings and 
rigging hardware
Markings, Proof Load Testing, inspection & Maintenance
ABS, DNV, Lloyds Marine Applications Stringent material, manufacturing, and testing standards
RR-C-271H Offshore Lifting Equipment Charpy impact test requirement (31 ft-lb at -4°F)

Remember, using certified and properly tested shackles is an investment in safety. It minimizes the risk of accidents, protects your crew, and ensures your lifting operations run smoothly.

Towing Strap Connected with a steel Shackle

The Power of a Straight Pull - Using Shackles for Towing

Shackles aren't just masters of lifting; they excel in towing applications as well. When it comes to towing, a  straight-line pull  is crucial for safety and efficiency. Here's how shackles facilitate secure and controlled towing operations:

Why Straight Line Pulls Matter in Towing

Unlike lifting, where shackles might handle loads from various angles, towing requires a direct, straight-line pull. This minimizes stress on the shackle and towing components, preventing potential damage or failure.

Selecting the Optimal Shackle for Towing

Choosing the right shackle for towing hinges on understanding Working Load Limit (WLL) and Breaking Strength (MBS). Remember, WLL is the maximum safe working weight. When towing, never exceed the WLL of your chosen shackle.


Pro Tip

When selecting a shackle for towing with synthetic web straps, ensure the shackle's Working Load Limit (WLL) is higher than the Maximum Breaking Strength (MBS) of the web straps you'll be using. This prioritizes the failure of the web strap in case of overload, minimizing the risk of a catastrophic shackle failure.

Additional Considerations for Safe Towing with Shackles

While WLL is crucial, safe towing with shackles involves more than just weight capacity. Here are some additional considerations:

Avoid Side Loading:  Shackles are designed for straight pulls. Side loading (when the pulling force isn't in a direct line with the shackle pin) can significantly weaken the shackle and increase the risk of failure. Ensure your tow strap or recovery strap connects to the shackle in a straight line with the towing direction.

Shackle Pin Security:  Double-check that the shackle pin is securely fastened. Screw pin shackles require proper tightening, while bolt type shackles need a secure nut and cotter pin. Round pin shackles should have a properly inserted cotter pin.

Shackle Condition:  Regularly inspect shackles for any damage or deformation. A compromised shackle can have a reduced WLL and pose a safety hazard.

By understanding these key points and prioritizing a straight-line pull, you can leverage the power of shackles for safe and efficient towing operations.


Shackles are seemingly simple tools, but they play a vital role in ensuring safety and efficiency during lifting, rigging, and towing operations. By understanding shackle anatomy, material properties, WLL limitations, and safe practices, you can make informed decisions when selecting and using shackles. 

Remember, a compromised shackle or exceeding its WLL can lead to serious accidents. Always prioritize safety by following the proper guidelines and inspecting your shackles regularly. With the knowledge provided in this guide, you're well-equipped to choose the right shackle for the job and ensure a successful and safe operation.

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