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USCG issues warning on electrical deficiencies

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Exposure to water caused deteriorated wiring systems in a commercial vessel’s walking tunnel, as shown in this photograph taken Feb. 25, 2016. The Coast Guard recommends all vessel owners check their electronic systems before getting underway in the spring

MARCH 23, 2016 — Due to an increase in reported electrical deficiencies on commercial vessels, the U.S. Coast Guard District 9 (Great Lakes) is warning commercial vessel owners to inspect their vessels’ wiring before getting underway in the spring.

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

Some examples of common discrepancies include:

Dead-ended wiring: When equipment is changed or removed, new wiring is installed. Often the old wiring is not removed or properly put in a junction box. This poses a shock hazard if the wiring is still energized.

Compromised watertight integrity: When wiring that penetrates a watertight bulkhead is replaced, the penetration must be made watertight. If it is not properly addressed, the watertight integrity and fire boundary of the space becomes compromised.

Wire Chafing: Wire runs that are susceptible to vibrations and movements need adequate protection where pinch points and rub hazards exist. Excessive wear can compromise the sheathing and insulator. This can cause a circuit short or fault and in some cases result in a component failure or fire.

Deteriorated wiring: Wiring exposed to water can become deteriorated over time, compromising 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. Routine inspections of vessels’ electrical systems should be conducted. It should not be assumed that all discrepancies are identified during fit-out exams. Some items require attention and troubleshooting beyond the scope of an annual exam.Servicing and maintenance of electrical systems should be conducted by appropriately trained personnel and in accordance with applicable regulations and standards.

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