Blunt warning highlights the dangers of using portable generators on board

Leading inland boat safety body urges caution

Whatever your electrical needs whilst afloat, whether charging the boat’s batteries or your laptop and mobile, the stark warning from a leading boat safety body is that petrol generators will continue to cost lives and cause misery unless boaters use them correctly.

The Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) made this blunt statement in light of the fatalities and injuries that have taken place on boats across the UK in recent years; devastating events that could have been avoided if the correct safety measures were taken.

Prevention is key

Petrol generators can be seen as critical to some boaters wanting off-grid electrical power. Yet the fact that generators emit deadly carbon monoxide and need refuelling with highly flammable petrol means they must be never be installed in an enclosed cockpit area or engine space of a boat.

Generators must never be used on or close to the boat where exhaust fumes could enter the boat and where they can cause preventable injuries or fatalities.

Graham Watts, Manager of the Boat Safety Scheme, explains: “On too many occasions we hear of fatalities or near fatalities on boats caused by the incorrect use of portable generators.

"The heart-breaking thing is that on most occasions the accident could have been avoided, and lives saved, if generators are used according to manufacturer’s instructions – in the open and away from the boat.”

How to stay safe

The RYA supports the BSS message that if boaters want to use generators, these three basic bullet points should be followed:

  • Never install a portable generator permanently or make unauthorised modifications that are not supported by the manufacturer, or proprietary component supplier
  • Never run generators on the boat, or on the bank near to the boat’s doors, vents, windows and hatches. If you can smell exhaust fumes in the boat, it could mean the cabin is also filling with deadly carbon monoxide
  • Never refuel any generator anywhere aboard the boat; take it to the bank and ensure you are a safe distance from other boats and potential sources of ignition. And always make sure you are keeping to any marina or mooring-owner guidance and rules on the use of generators, refuelling and the handling of petrol on their sites.

Further advice for boaters on staying safe using generators is available