"This warning has become even more valid after the Calor Gas U-turn as some owners will be swapping back again and buying yet another regulator."
Calor’s decision to stop filling 4.5kg gas bottles – which has since undergone a u-turn – forced owners to find alternatives such as Campingaz and Flogas. However a marine surveyor has warned against the temptation of cheaper non-marine regulators.
The Flogas Gaslite 5kg bottle looks ideal for cooking on board as it is fibreglass, lightweight and doesn’t stain your locker with rust. It’s for sale in B&Q, Homebase and B&M stores and advertised for boat use but surveyor Nick Vass is urging sailors to be aware that Flogas do not make regulators and there are no marine grade regulators that clip on directly to the Gaslite 27mm bottle outlet.
Yachts built after 1998 are fitted from new with a marine Annex M compliant regulator to comply with the UK’s Recreational Craft Regulations (RCR) and the EU’s Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) standards.
Swapping to a non-compliant regulator would be a modification, which might invalidate any future insurance claim.
Nick told PBO: “Unfortunately, Flogas, Calor Gas and Campingaz all have different size outlets and so need different regulators.
“There is no such thing as a standard LPG regulator that fits all.
“Using a Gaslite bottle would be possible by fitting a separate bulkhead marine regulator bolted to the inside of the gas locker rather than clipped onto the bottle itself. You require a length of high pressure hose with crimped ends connected to an adapter that clips onto the bottle.
“This is actually a good system as it minimises the possibility of gas getting past the regulator into the low pressure side of the system.”
Onboard gas regulators need to comply with ISO 10239 Annex M and be marked with the word ‘marine’.
While the majority of larger chandleries offer marine grade and RCR/RCD-compliant equipment, Nick has warned that most also supply “ordinary outdoor barbecue or camping stove regulators” and problems arise when “owners assume that regulators must be safe if sold in a chandlery shop.”
He said: “I recently visited 10 shops belonging to six different chandlery retailers and all were selling cheap, non-compliant regulators.”
The temptation to buy a cheaper camping regulator is also a hazard.
Nick added: “Campingaz sell empty bottles new in Halfords and they sell camping regulators on the same shelf attracting passing yachties.
“Many boat owners swap their discontinued Calor bottle for small Campingaz bottles as they will fit into gas lockers. ISO 10239 Annex M stipulates that a marine regulator must have an over-pressure relief valve outlet that excludes the possibility of high pressure gas getting to the cooker at the end of the low pressure line. The over-pressure valve allows escaped gas to drain safely away from inside the gas locker.
“The Annex M regulator is made of corrosion-resistant materials that do not include painted, galvanised or nickel plated steel and that internal diaphragm and springs are more substantial. Ordinary cheap outdoor regulators are made of mild steel which goes rusty near salty seawater. Annex M regulators work on both propane and butane. So, when replacing your gas bottle, ask for a marine regulator.”
A Campingaz spokesman said: “We recommend connecting your gas appliance with a marine regulator when using a Campingaz 907 cylinder on a boat. The regulator must have an inlet connection of G3 or M16 x 1.5mm.”
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A Force 4 chandlery spokesperson said: “Our GasBOAT marine grade regulators are fully compliant and also designed for the marine environment. They are available for a range of cylinders, including the Campingaz 904 and 907 bottles”
Most insurance policies offered to UK boat owners demand that the use of the insured boat must meet all legal requirements and be kept in a seaworthy condition.
Keith Lovett, senior underwriter from Stoneways Marine Insurance, said: “Rather than fall foul of conditions within their insurance policy all boat owners should ensure that any systems, gas or otherwise, are meeting legal requirements, specifically the RCD [RCR] where applicable, and are safe for use in a maritime environment.
“If uncertainty exists, close attention should be made to guidance or warnings provided by manufacturers, advice or input from professional marine gas installers or input from reputable and insured marine surveyors.”
“Even more timely”
Last month Calor Gas confirmed that it will continue to supply 3.9kg propane and 4.5kg butane cylinders having announced it was phasing them out.
Nick Vass added: “Great news that Calor Gas have listened to boat owners and decided to refill the 4.5kg butane bottles that are found on most boats in the UK. This is so welcome as many boat’s lockers were specifically designed to take that bottle.
“The 4.5kg bottle is particularly useful as it has a built-in shut off tap, something that the 7kg and Campingaz bottles lack. Turning off that valve feels reassuring.
“It should also be noted that marine compliant Annex-M regulators are more common for the 4.5kg bottle as the outlet is a size commonly found on the Continent. The 7kg bottle has a different connector and there is only one make of marine regulator currently on the market.
“This warning has become even more valid after the U-turn as some owners will be swapping back again and buying yet another regulator.”
He added: “I personally had luckily retained our old 4.5kg bottles and put them in the shed thinking that they might get re-filled in the future. I’m a hoarder which annoys my wife.
“Last summer I bought two empty 7kg bottles off Facebook marketplace for five quid each and exchanged one. This will last forever.
“I bought refilled 4.5kg last week. So, yes. Looks like they are refilling. Luckily, I kept our marine regulator.”