Marinas throughout the United States serve multiple roles for boat owners. Marinas and yacht clubs may provide storage, maintenance, fueling, and recreation for boaters and their guests. It is imperative that these facilities provide services and amenities in a safe and competent manner. It should come as no surprise that water and electricity do not mix, yet marinas across the country rely on electrical service to perform their functions. Electricity represents a “hidden” risk for marina operators and anyone who spends time on or near these facilities. In addition to purchasing marina policies, marina owners should understand electrical safety risks to in order to prevent injury or death.
Electrical Hazards in Marina Operations
Electricity is used throughout the commercial marina industry. Electricity powers building and grounds lighting, operates fueling systems, and provides shore power for boats moored within the marina. Equipment and cables maintained in peak condition are relatively safe, even in the presence of water, but any frayed or damaged electrical wiring can spell disaster for marina operations. Common electrical hazards in marinas include:
- Electrocution risks from damaged or frayed electrical cables.
- Fires, particularly when damaged electrical equipment comes into contact with flammable fuel, lubricants, or chemicals used in the marina.
- Insufficient or missing electrical safety features such as breakers, ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), or waterproof shielding for cable connections.
- Electrocution from overhead electrical cables coming into contact with boat masts or rigging.
- Electric shock drowning (ESD) caused by wiring or cables discharging electricity into the water around boats or swimming areas.
Electricity has been responsible for dozens of tragic incidents in America’s marinas, leading to drowning and electrocution deaths. In 2016, a 20-year old sailor was electrocuted at the Gulfport Yacht Club in Gulfport, Mississippi when his boat’s rigging contacted an electrical service line. The man received severe burns over most of his body; eventually, he had both of his legs and an arm amputated as a result of his injuries and will require lifelong care. His family sued the yacht club and Mississippi Power for the man’s injuries and subsequent medical care. While marina insurance can help protect businesses against many liabilities, even this protection may not be enough in the face of an injury or wrongful death caused by electricity.
Managing Electricity Risks in Marina Operations
Boat marinas and yacht clubs have a responsibility to provide safe and secure premises for their boating clients. Because electricity is used for so many of a marina’s services, it is imperative that marina owners and operators take the safety steps needed to prevent tragic incidents. Marina owners should implement safety and prevention strategies anywhere that electricity and water may come into contact. Strategies include:
- Inspecting all electrical connections for frayed wires or damage.
- Installing GFCI receptacles and breakers anywhere electrical service is needed near water.
- Routinely testing circuit breakers and GFCI receptacles for proper function.
- Training marina employees on what to do in case of electrical emergencies.
- Disallowing swimming within the marina’s waters.
- Ensuring that rescue devices and fire extinguishers are present on marina grounds in case of emergency.
- Keeping marina insurance policies up to date, and ensuring that these policies and coverages reflect the risk exposures of the marina operation.
- Adhering to regulations governing marina operations, including warning signage required by the National Electric Code.
Electrical service is part of every marina’s daily operations. In the marina environment, electricity poses significant risks, potentially causing injury or death if equipment is not maintained. Marina owners must adopt electrical safety practices in order to protect their businesses, their employees, and their customers.
About Merrimac Marine Insurance
At Merrimac Marine, we are dedicated to providing insurance for the marine industry to protect your clients’ business and assets. For more information about our products and programs, contact our specialists today at (800) 681-1998.