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Shore connection box on boat

Interview with Captain Peter Lambert

We sat down with Captain Peter Lambert, Ships Master/Owner of Australian Maritime Operations & Logistics to ask him a few questions about shore connections and safety.

Peter, what is important to consider when choosing a shore connection device?

PL: Firstly, we must ask the question as to what does this piece of equipment do? And why is it necessary for the safe operation of my vessel?

Your shore connection device needs to ensure that the input polarity from a shore power installation (for example, a marina constant) is aligned to the vessel’s wiring system and that the connection between the shore power input and the ship’s system is compatible.

Why is this important?

PL: We all know that marina shore power system is ’supposed’ to be wired in a particular fashion to comply with the AS/NZ (Australian Standard) for electrical wiring. The reasons behind this are quite simple – the wiring on the marina or berth should be compatible with that on the vessel. This is very often NOT the case.

The fact that AC (Alternating Current) changes polarity is easily understood when you look at the basic 3 wire connection cable almost exclusively used industry wide. There is a red or brown core, a black or brown core and a green core. The green core is always the EARTH.

The red/black represent the positive and neutral.

The connection into the GPO plug and socket (which should always be the same and done by a licensed electrical contractor) are easily confused by the untrained and can lead to a ‘reversed’ polarity situation. This means the red and black are incorrectly connected.

ESHORE  effectively resolves this potentially dangerous problem. The indicator lights show instantly what the connection might be, and in the event that the red/black are reversed, then by simply changing the position of the Polarity switch we can reinstate the correct inputs to the system.

Why is this important for boat owners to understand?

PL: The incorrect input of electrical current into the system allows a situation where the NEGATIVE (black) conductor is being isolated which effectively means that the system remains live as there is still power into the positive or red conductor.

By all appearances, the system is “OFF” but in reality, it is still very much alive as there is power supplied into the positive conductor (ie: the red wire). Giving some thought to this fact, if you cannot fully isolate the red wire (positive) by way of changing the polarity then there is no value in isolating the black or negative side of the system.

The importance of the correct polarity is absolutely paramount to the safety of all persons who may come in contact with the system and in the broadest sense, this means everyone who comes in contact with the vessel.

Apart from being cognisant of your own safety there is a very clear requirement for all boat owners/operators to ensure the safety of those who may have any form of contact with the vessel. From an authoritarian perspective this mandatorily requires the necessary safety to persons being fully and correctly addressed at all times.

The position of a Marine Insurer may be prejudiced by failing to have taken an appropriate stance in this regard, and the actual real life policy cover that may or may not be effective needs careful consideration in today’s maritime environment.

Apart from the formal requirements of operating the vessel safely there is also an incumbent ‘duty of care’ on all operators, regardless of being either commercial or recreational, to ensure the safety of anyone who may be engaged with any aspect of the vessel and that includes both passengers, crew, contractors or others.

Thank you Peter for your time.