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ESD and marinas

When it comes to marinas, both saltwater and freshwater, corrosive environments can be very tough on electrical equipment. Many marinas often lack ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), devices that automatically shut off electrical power when they detect a leakage. Compounding the problem is that there are no consistent rules about recurring safety inspections.

The following codes and standards apply to boats and marinas and their related electrical safety issues: 
Examples of 2020 National Electrical Code® changes: 
  • No swimming signArticle 555 added “floating buildings” to its title and scope.Part III of Article 555 covers installation requirements for floating buildings.
  • Signage requirements have been relocated from 555.24 in the 2017 NEC to 555.10 in the 2020 NEC and now require permanent signage at docking facilities, boatyards, and marinas.
  • 555.13 - All metal parts in contact with the water, all metal piping, and all non-current-carrying metal parts that are likely to become energized shall be connected to the grounding bus in the panelboard using solid copper conductors; insulated, covered, or bare; not smaller than 8 AWG. Connections to bonded parts shall be made in accordance with 250.8.
  • 555.5 - Pier power distribution systems maximum voltage has been reduced from 1000 volts phase to phase, to 250 volts maximum phase to phase.Pier power distribution systems, where qualified personnel service the equipment under engineering supervision, shall be permitted to exceed 250 volts but shall not exceed 600 volts.
  • 555.7 - Transformers shall be identified for wet locations, for both new installations and replacement of existing transformers.
  • 555.30(C) – Replacement electrical connections must be installed at least 12 inches above the deck of a floating pier.


Cliff Norton, of Bellingham Marine Utilities, and member of Code Making Panel 7, discusses the work that went into revising the NEC to best serve the marina industry while keeping people safe.



Keith Lofland, of IAEI, and chair of Code Making Panel 7, explains electric shock drowning and how the NEC addresses marina safety including the requirement related to ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).




Casey Grant, P.E., executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation, discusses the key findings of the August 2017 “Marina Risk Reduction” report that underscore the need for collective strategic solutions to the electric shock drowning problem.

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