Skip to content

US Coast Guard: Addressing hazardous area electrical issues

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has published Safety Alert 05/20 entitled Electrical Issues Spark Major Concern – Addressing Hazardous Area Electrical Installations Knowledge Gaps.

The Safety Alert emphasizes the importance of properly installed and maintained listed or certified safe electrical equipment in hazardous areas in order to reduce the risk of fire or explosion onboard vessels. The USCG has seen a number of instances where there was a lack of knowledge in the marine industry with regard to the installation, training, maintenance and inspection of these certified systems.

  • Port State Control Officers (PSCOs) have found certified safe equipment improperly installed or identified missing components, which compromises the certification of the system and nullifies this critical protection in a flammable environment;
  • In other cases, PSCOs found degraded components and evidence of equipment not being maintained or inspected;
  • Additionally, USCG personnel have discovered instances where individuals responsible for the installation, maintenance, and oversight of this equipment onboard foreign and domestic vessels were unfamiliar with the appropriate standards to follow.
  • The USCG notes that “the attribution of fires caused by electrical faults cannot be overstated.” and the safety alert goes on to say that “Fire and explosion protection standards for electrical equipment in the oil and gas industry worldwide is a substantial part of the industry’s safety barrier.”

Actions taken and lessons learned:

In the alert, the US Coast Guard strongly recommends that owners, operators, shipboard personnel and service providers:

  • Familiarize themselves with the appropriate IEC [International Electrotechnical Commission] standards as related to the proper training, inspection, maintenance, and documentation of electrical equipment installed in hazardous areas, to ensure that no potential ignition source is present in hazardous areas aboard tank vessels, gas carriers and vessels using gases or other low flashpoint fuels;
  • Ensure proper training for operators and persons with executive functions conducted to a standard not inferior to the IEC at all appropriate levels;
  • Implement an appropriate periodic inspection and maintenance program by competent personnel;
  • Ensure that any repairs are made by a competent technician or repair facility. When in doubt, a representative of the equipment manufacturer should be consulted. Any modifications to existing systems must be discussed with and approved by the appropriate regulatory authority.
  • Whilst this safety alert was developed for USCG by the Liquefied Gas Carrier National Center of Expertise in Port Arthur, TX, the underlying principles are applicable to IMCA members’ operations.

Related Resources

Members may wish to refer to

Safety Event

Published: 28 September 2020
Download: IMCA SF 28/20

IMCA Safety Flashes
Submit a Report

IMCA Safety Flashes summarise key safety matters and incidents, allowing lessons to be more easily learnt for the benefit of all. The effectiveness of the IMCA Safety Flash system depends on Members sharing information and so avoiding repeat incidents. Please consider adding [email protected] to your internal distribution list for safety alerts or manually submitting information on incidents you consider may be relevant. All information is anonymised or sanitised, as appropriate.

IMCA’s store terms and conditions ( apply to all downloads from IMCA’s website, including this document.

IMCA makes every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the documents it publishes, but IMCA shall not be liable for any guidance and/or recommendation and/or statement herein contained. The information contained in this document does not fulfil or replace any individual’s or Member's legal, regulatory or other duties or obligations in respect of their operations. Individuals and Members remain solely responsible for the safe, lawful and proper conduct of their operations.