Marine Wire and Boat Cable

The marine environment is a hostile one for electrical wire. Wire used on board a marine vessel will potentially be exposed to numerous obstacles, such as salt water, sunlight, heat and other outside hindrances. All electrical wires are not constructed to endure the problems associated with marine conditions and therefore will not be suitable wiring on boats or ships. In these situations, marine wire or boat cable may be necessary.

Marine wire, boat cable, and marine primary wire are terms you may have heard used in reference to electrical wiring for boats or marine vessels. Wiring specified as "marine" or "boat" is different in several ways from other types of electrical wire, such as power wire used in the home, or automotive wire, etc. A main difference is that the conditions surrounding marine installations require marine wire and boat cable to perform better than other wires designed chiefly for land use.

A marine wire is specifically designed and engineered for the electrical wiring of boats and is intended for all possible uses abroad a ship. Marine wire may be distributed to the pleasure boat and commercial marine industries and is often used by boat builders. The term "boat cable" may often be used interchangeably with marine wire or marine cable. Boat cable usually refers to general electrical wiring used on a boat. Marine wire that may fall into the sweeping category of "boat cable" often starts as a single conductor cable. Extra wires are added from there into one cable, consequently creating multi conductor boat cable.

Because of the demanding marine environment, approved marine wire usually possesses a copper conductor. In addition, the jacket of the cable will most likely have been tested for flammability safety. The jacket and the insulation should be rated water resistant.

The most frequently requested single conductor boat cable styles are marine primary wire and marine battery cable. The cables are extremely similar. The main factor that differentiates the two is the AWG size of the cable. According to General Isles Marine, single conductor boat cable in sizes 16 AWG up to 8 AWG are widely known as primary wire sizes. The larger single conductor marine cables ranging from size 6 AWG up to 4/0 AWG are known as battery cable sizes.

Often times, marine wire and boat cable provided by a manufacturer or distributor will meet the requirements of UL, SAE, Coast Guard, ABYC, and NMMA. The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), the United States Coast Guard (USCG), the National Marine Manufacturers Association NMMA) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) have developed safety standards and guidelines for marine electrical installations specifically serving manufacturers, technicians, and even boat owners.

Corrosion is a primary cause of electrical failures on a boat. In order to avoid the common problem, marine wire and boat cable are built to resist quick decay. In both wet and dry conditions, marine wire needs to behave consistently in order to perform properly. Marine wire, boat cable and marine primary wire may possess PVC insulation for added defense against the elements. After all, they need all of the help they can get.

The remaining links will examine the various types of marine wire and boat cable on the market today.