David J Waugh, managing director of Apollo Gas Ltd, considers the safety aspects relating to gas on board.

For those of us with gas on board, it should be remembered that Butane or Propane is the single most dangerous substance we carry. It is more volatile than the gas we use at home and we use it in an environment that vibrates, crashes about and flexes with each decent wave we move through. We throw as much salt water at it as we can and if even get to expose some of it to harmful UV rays as well.

In addition to that, the regulators used on board have a limited working life, as do the flexible hoses in the gas locker and behind the cooker.

Gas systems on board most vessels are, in the main, simple affairs. They start at the gas cylinder in the dedicated gas locker with a gas regulator attached, either directly or with a length of flexible hose. There should then be a continuous length of copper pipe into the galley area, where there should be a gas isolation valve (tap).


On a sailing boat, where there is a gimballed cooker, there should be a braided metal cooker hose joining the isolation valve to the cooker. On a powerboat, where the hob and cooker are fixed, these should ideally be connected to the isolation valve by rigid copper pipe.

Lastly, somewhere in the system will be a pressure test point, enabling your gas engineer to test the system and regulator pressures and to test for leaks.

You may have slight variations to this, such as a bubble tester, water heater, warm air heater and/or an electric solenoid gas switch, but what is described is the norm.


Good seamanship and common sense would dictate that the gas system on a boat should be checked for safety on a regular basis by a competent registered marine gas engineer, but you would be amazed how many boat owners still believe that they can work on the gas system themselves and test for leaks with washing up liquid.

It makes you wonder if they would do the same with the gas system in their homes.

A quick call to your insurers will tell you how often they expect a gas safety inspection and whether they consider you to be a competent gas engineer.

Safety on board should be every skipper’s priority and gas should be right at the top of the list. In addition to arranging a gas safety inspection, a responsible owner might also consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm and a gas detector/alarm. Your gas engineer will advise you on both.

Do not put it off – arrange your inspection today!