Electrical and gas safety on boats

Using electricity and gas safely on boats and other marine craft is important to protect your boat from fire, and the people on board from serious injury. Many boat fires and explosions are the result of people disregarding the necessary safety measures.

Boat masts often accidentally make contact with powerlines, causing fires, damage, and in some cases injuries and deaths. When manoeuvring a boat always look up for overhead powerlines.

New LPG installations on boats

Always use a licensed gas fitter for all LPG installations on your boat. Ensure that the gas fitter provides you with a certificate of compliance at the completion of the gas work.

All gas installations and LPG systems aboard boats and other marine craft must comply with safety standards as set out in AS/NZS 5601.2.

Under the South Australian Gas Act 1997 and the Harbors and Navigation Regulations 1994, the Office of the Technical Regulator is responsible for ensuring compliance with the installation standards.

Safety checks for onboard LPG systems

Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) is heavier than air and if leaked aboard a boat will accumulate and fill the lower compartments of the craft. Concentrated LPG in confined spaces is very dangerous and can explode very easily.

To ensure the safety of gas installations on your boat, you should have the LPG system checked regularly by a licensed gas fitter. You can also carry out the following safety checks yourself.

  • If you smell gas, check the exposed connections with soapy water. Soap bubbles will show any gas leak at the connection point.
  • Never use a flame for detecting gas leaks. Turn off the gas and have the leak repaired by a licensed gas fitter.
  • If a gas leak has been fixed, allow enough time for the gas to disperse before carrying out any activity that could ignite a flame or generate a spark.
  • Always keep LPG cylinders upright and secured in their place. LPG cylinders should never be laid down even when empty.
  • Always store LPG cylinders, fittings and other components in the dedicated gas cylinder compartment.
  • Keep potential sources of ignition such as flames, electrical switches, lights and motors away from gas cylinders.
  • Regularly check LPG cylinder connections and hoses for signs of deterioration and leaks and replace them when necessary.
  • Check for cylinder corrosion regularly.
  • Remember the importance of ventilation for gas appliances. Ensure that there are enough flues and vents where gas appliances operate.
  • Ensure that your mono-hull boat's gas detection systems are re-calibrated at regular intervals.
  • Always have suitable and ready-for-use fire extinguishers aboard your boat.
  • Only use LPG cylinders that are within the 10-year test period. Check testing labels to find out the time of last test – these are printed on the collar of the cylinder.
  • Ensure that the cylinder surface coating is suitable for where it is used. Painted cylinder surfaces may not be suitable if the cylinder is to be exposed to harsh weather or a salt-laden environment.

Buying gas appliances for your boat

When buying gas appliances make sure that they display safety approval labels from recognised certifying organisations such as AGA, SAI Global, IAPMO, and Global-Mark.

Buying pre-owned boats

If you're considering purchasing a pre-owned boat that has gas and electrical installations, ask the seller to provide you with the appropriate gas and electrical certificates of compliance (including an agent or manufacturer). If the seller is not able to provide the certificates, proceed with caution.

A licensed gas fitter or electrician can do a safety inspection of the installations on the vessel and provide you with the necessary certificates of compliance. Where non-compliant issues are identified, the licensed tradesperson can tell you or the current owner what needs to be done to make the installation safe and compliant and undertake the necessary modifications.

Safety inspections for marine craft

Commercial craft

From 1 July 2015, vessel owners and operators requiring a vessel survey or inspection in South Australia will need to engage an AMSA Accredited Marine Surveyor.

This applies to all commercial marine craft used for trading, fishing, passenger transport, and all hire and drive houseboats.

Commercial marine craft that have a current certificate of survey (certificate of inspection for house boats) are called in-survey. In-survey craft must carry their certificate on the craft for inspection.

A gas certificate of compliance may be requested by the DIT Commercial Marine Services for commercial vessels to stay in-survey or come into survey.

Recreational craft

Recreational craft are marine craft that are not in-survey ie non-commercial craft. These vessels do not require inspections by Marine Safety SA however gas and electrical contractors must provide the boat owner with a certificate of compliance for all gas and electrical work performed aboard the boat. All gas and electrical installations are subject to random inspection by the Office of the Technical Regulator.

Reporting gas-related incidents

All gas related incidents involving a marine craft must be reported to the Office of the Technical Regulator on 1800 558 811. The Office of the Technical Regulator will convey the information to Marine Safety SA.

It is an offence under the Gas Act 1997, to become aware of a gas related incident and not report it to the Office of the Technical Regulator.

Boats and powerlines

When manoeuvring your boat, always look up for overhead powerlines. It is important you are mindful of the position of powerlines around boat ramps and marinas as the movement of water can reduce the distance between your boat and the powerline.

The Electricity (General) Regulations 2012, prescribes safe clearance distances for operating vessels (boats and other marine craft) from powerlines.

A safe clearance distance is the minimum distance that must be kept between powerlines and people or machinery such as boats to ensure the safety of people and property.

Minimum clearance distances are measured from the part of the boat such as its mast or load closest to the nearest conductor (powerline wire) on the powerline.

The prescribed clearance distances are legal requirements and must be adhered to at all times. Any breach of these distances can result in severe injuries and even death.

For help and advice with regard to the regulations contact the Office of the Technical Regulator.

For more information on operating machinery near powerlines see Working safely near overhead powerlines.

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Page last updated 24 November 2022

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