Concerns about the use of onshore electricity

It is becoming increasingly widespread that ships use a shore-based electrical supply when mooring. However, many people are worried about handling the supply, particularly where there is high voltage in the cables. The Transport Agency is currently developing rules for connection to shore-based electrical supplies.
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It is becoming increasingly widespread that ships use a shore-based electrical supply when mooring. However, many people are worried about handling the supply, particularly where there is high voltage in the cables. The Transport Agency is currently developing rules for connection to shore-based electrical supplies.

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“Connecting the vessel to the onshore power grid has advantages, but people’s concerns are definitely justified,” says Mats Wennerström. Photo: Gothenburg harbour.

“We have not received any reports of accidents and I don’t really believe that this is a problem. But certainly, people’s concerns are definitely justified. Power is connected to the equivalent of small residential communities, and for high voltage ships this may be up to 10,000 volts, even though we only have a couple of those ships in Sweden,” says Mats Wennerström, ship inspector at the Transport Agency’s supervisory authority in Malmö.
Connecting ships to the onshore power grid has advantages. Aerial emissions are reduced and it is less expensive compared to electricity generated onboard. But although it is becoming more common there are still no regulations for connecting to high voltage supplies.
“Development is ahead of us and we have not quite caught up yet,” says Saeed Mohebbi at the Transport Agency. “But we are working on it and expect to have rules in place within one to one and a half years.”
Meanwhile, the authority refers to the international standard for the handling of high voltage (IEC/PAS 60092-510) that is already in force onshore. According to this standard, monitoring, inspection and knowledge are all required.
“As far as electricity is concerned, it is always associated with dangers that can cause serious injury and damage to personnel and property. It is very important that people working with electricity are accredited or instructed by qualified personnel,” says Saeed Mohebbi.
Proper handling most important
Even with lower voltages in the cables, proper handling procedures are necessary to maintain safety. But according to Saeed Mohebbi, these are not always followed.
“It is important that the cables are not crushed or otherwise damaged, and sometimes they are installed in the wrong way. If there is no qualified electrician onboard, the chief engineer is responsible for ensuring that personnel involved in the installation work know what to do.”
Connections to shore-based electricity are covered by two sets of rules under different authorities; the Electrical Safety Board controls the shore side and Transport Agency is responsible for ships. The meeting point between these two is in the harbour.
“The onshore organization buys and installs equipment on the quayside. Then there is just a socket dangling in the air for the crewmembers to connect to the plant onboard,” says Mats Wennerström.
During his inspections he meets some seamen who dislike handling electricity. They want to be assured that they can trust the equipment and that they are handling it correctly.
“They are concerned that the shipowners have bought the cheapest rather than the best and wonder why they have not been given any training,” he says.
Linda Sundgren

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