Riverbend Marine Service Auction

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

USCG Warns of Vessel Electrical Deficiencies

By Mark Edward Nero

An increase in reported electrical deficiencies on commercial vessels has led the US Coast Guard to warn commercial vessel owners to inspect their vessels’ wiring before getting underway this spring.

The Coast Guard says its marine inspectors have discovered that a number of vessels have significant electrical deficiencies that can pose safety hazards and cause marine-engine causalities, and inspectors will spend additional time during inspections examining electrical systems as a result.

Some examples of common discrepancies include dead-ended wiring, compromised watertight integrity, wire chafing and deteriorated wiring.

Dead-ended wiring is when equipment is changed or removed and new wiring is installed. Sometimes the old wiring is not removed or properly put in a junction box, which poses a shock hazard if the wiring is still energized.

Compromised watertight integrity can occur when wiring that penetrates a watertight bulkhead is replaced. The penetration must be made watertight, or the watertight integrity and fire boundary of the space becomes compromised.

Wire chafing is when wire runs that are susceptible to vibrations and movements aren’t adequately protected where pinch points and rub hazards exist. Excessive wear can compromise the sheathing and insulator, and can cause a circuit short or fault and in some cases result in a component failure or fire.

Deteriorated wiring is when wiring is exposed to water, which compromises the integrity of the sheathing and insulator. This can cause a circuit short or fault and in some cases result in a component failure or fire.

Ultimately, says the Coast Guard, vessel masters are responsible for vessel safety, and routine inspections of vessels’ electrical systems should be conducted by trained personnel and in accordance with applicable regulations and standards.

“It shouldn’t be assumed that all discrepancies are identified during fit-out exams,” the USCG said in a statement. “Some items require attention and troubleshooting beyond the scope of an annual exam.”