One of the popular discourses between boat owners on the Internet is whether automotive cables work just as fine as marine cables for electrical systems aboard yachts and other types of recreational boats. Some have the impression that both types are interchangeable, mostly because of their similar outer appearances.
Of course, the more seasoned sailors know better: automotive and marine insulated cables are not interchangeable. They are very different purpose- and design-wise, and the only similarity they share is their appearance, as both are thick with PVC rubber coating.
Marine Cables Are the Standard for Offshore Industrial Sites
Resourcefulness is an admirable quality, but not when cutting corners can compromise people’s safety. If leisure boat owners can get away with using automotive cables in their boats’ electrical systems, procurement teams for marine industries, offshore oil and gas fields, fixed platforms, and subsea facilities don’t have that luxury. For these sites, only standards-compliant, high-performance offshore power cables are acceptable.
What are the differences between automotive and offshore marine cables, and why is the latter better suited to marine industrial applications?
- Offshore cables consist of finer, more numerous copper filaments whereas automotive cables have fewer and thicker wires. This is why offshore cables are more flexible and resistant to vibrations. Vibration speeds up wear and tear and is, unfortunately, a constant presence in vessels, fixed platforms and other marine locations.
- The copper in offshore cables is tinned. The “tinning” in marine power cables is the reason for the silver colour of its copper filaments. It also prevents corrosion from oxidation and exposure to saltwater. Corroded power cables are problematic because they could look perfectly fine, but in truth, they’re no longer conducting electricity as well as they should. It’s often the reason power systems don’t run properly despite passing ocular inspections. Moreover, oxidation in cable wires is dangerous; it leads to resistance in electricity flow, which generates heat. When the temperature rises further, the PVC insulation could melt and cause short-circuits in the electrical system.
- Offshore and marine cables undergo testing to check its flame-retardant quality. These checks follow the IEC’s (International Electrotechnical Commission) standards for electrical conductors for marine applications.
- Offshore and marine cables are easier to solder than automotive cables because of the tinned wires. They are essentially copper wires coated with micron-thick metallic alloy used in soldering.
- Reputable manufacturers also conduct IEC 61034 standardisation tests for smoke density. This test is a precautionary measure in the event of a fire: cables that produce very dense smoke make it harder to reach the source of the flames and extinguish them. The hot smoke can also cause further damage to other electrical systems and surfaces with low heat tolerance, as well as harm the health of everyone inside the vessel or building.
Offshore locations such as oil rigs and fixed platforms may sometimes require workers to be innovative when supplies are short. Temporary solutions, however, should not take the place of the prescribed, long-term remedies, especially when the safety of the site and the crew are at stake.
Automotive cables have their uses, but offshore power cables are still the best for marine and industrial applications. Maintain a healthy stock in your facility by getting in touch with Cable Source. From our headquarters in Singapore, we deliver superior, industrial-grade offshore power cables to customers from various industries all over Asia Pacific.
Contact us today.