Thousands of sailors are affected by Calor’s decision to discontinue its 4.5kg butane and 3.9kg propane gas cylinders – and hundreds intend to refill their own gas canisters due to ‘Calor’s unrealistic offer of larger 6kg or 7kg alternatives.’
The UK’s largest yacht owners group, the Westerly Owners’ Association (WOA) with 3,000 members, is among those dependent on gas bottles of this size for cooking on board.
In a WOA survey, more than 11% of 2,000 respondents said they intended to ‘fill their own cylinders’ – which the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) has warned is unlawful and highly dangerous.
PBO readers with Seawolf 30, Colvic UFO 31, and Island Packet 320 yachts have voiced concerns that suggested 6kg or 7kg cylinder alternatives are unworkable without great expense and modifications.
Michael Goodlad of Aberdeenshire said: “There are thousands of yacht and boat owners affected by this major change in policy with lockers that cannot take larger cylinders, who will have to pay conversion costs to some other system. And it also affects many more motorhome and caravan owners. We need a campaign to get Calor to reconsider.”
Tom Mullarkey, of Cumbria, said: “My Island Packet 320 has a well-constructed two-bottle gas locker which will take 3.9kg or 4.5kg sized bottles but will not accept the 6kg size without major modification.
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“We have been royally dumped by Calor after – in my case – five decades of brand loyalty.
“The only alternative for the majority of boats is Flogas (unavailable to new customers), Campingaz 907 (expensive at £70-80 for a 2.7kg cylinder) or Gaslow (legally refillable cylinders but at a cost of around £200 per cylinder). Butane (Campingaz) may not work properly – or in my case not at all – on appliances rated for propane.
“How can you go to sea or live aboard without adequate, safe cooking arrangements?”
Tim Good told PBO that he had bought three different Flogas 4.5kg gas bottles from three different locations. He said: “Every bottle was different and none fitted in a locker designed for a Calor 4.5kg. Additionally, Campingaz 907 is OK for hobs but runs out really quickly in gas ovens so it’s not great for extended cruises.”
Yacht owners urged to ‘write to CMA’
Hillary Corney, chairman of the WOA southern area group, said: “We’ve had worrying results from a survey about Calor’s decision. A thousand people responded in 24 hours which shows the strength of feeling.
“Over 11% of 2,000 respondents are saying they will fill the old 4.5kg and 3.9kg bottles from larger ones as 95% of respondents cannot fit Calor’s larger ‘alternatives’ into their gas lockers.”
Only 2% or survey respondents said getting gas in the right cylinder was ‘easy’; 74% said it was ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’; and 94% want Calor to continue selling the small bottles. Over 95 % say they cannot fit the 6kg or 7kg bottles that Calor is offering as an alternative into their yacht’s gas locker; whilst 11% want to DIY fill their own bottles.
He added: “WOA urges all elected yacht owners to write to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the hope that the CMA, through the courts, can force Calor to stop scrapping the bottles and hand them over to a company such as Flogas, who I have been told by Flogas managers would be prepared to fill them and deliver to marinas.”
A Calor spokesperson said: “Our decision to phase out the supply of 3.9kg propane and 4.5kg butane cylinders over a longer timeframe, rather than discontinue them immediately, is to give customers additional time to source alternative power solutions for their boats.
“As unserviceable cylinders are taken out of circulation, supplies will become more limited. We recommend those seeking an exchange contact their nearest Calor Centre to check availability and the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) website for information on alternatives.”
Gas is a dangerous substance to have on board and needs to be handled with caution. The BSS has warned that DIY refilling of standard LPG cylinders such as Calor, Flogas and BP Gas that are intended for factory replenishment is ‘extremely foolhardy as well as unlawful’.
For gas locker modifications, boater owners are advised to find competent expertise in local boatyards or through the Gas Safe Register and ensure any changes are compliant with LPG Codes of Practice and Boat Safety Scheme requirements.
Flogas ‘not able to fill Calor cylinders’
A spokesperson for Flogas Britain told PBO: “Currently, due to the high demand of Flogas 3.9kg and 4.5kg cylinders we are currently only able to sell these in exchange for an empty cylinder.
“We’re working hard to increase stocks of our own cylinders in these sizes so we can serve new customers in these markets. The increased demand through Calor’s withdrawal has accelerated this.
“Calor cylinders are their legal property, therefore currently we are unable to fill any Calor cylinders.
“We do have some stocks, across both sizes but Calor’s announcement came out of the blue so we don’t have the metal available to new customers to cover the hole left by Calor’s exit.
“We are considering all options to increase our cylinder stocks to support the market. Activities are already under way to increase our capacity, but these take time and will not have an immediate impact on stocks available.
“Where dimensions are a significant concern, we are asking potential customers to physically go into our depots or stockists to check on sizes of cylinders: as PBO readers have identified, not all cylinders of the same capacity are the same size.”
Have your say
The Westerly Owners Association Calor Gas bottle small cylinders supplies survey aims to try to discover the size of the problem.
All users of small bottles of propane or butane gas are invited to take part in the survey to discover the impact of Calor’s withdrawal from sale of smaller sized gas cylinders. The survey takes about two minutes to complete and all responses are anonymous.