Batteries are potentially dangerous pieces of kit. For your protection you must store your batteries in a compartment or box specially designed for the purpose.

Large narrowboat battery bank to power hybrid narrow boat engine
Narrowboat battery box with lid open
Closed narrowboat battery box. It is a Boat Safety Scheme requirement to house narrow boat batteries in an enclosure

Battery Boxes… Why Do We Need Them?

Explosive Energy

This is vitally important part of any canal boat sailaway fit out and an area that should never be overlooked or underestimated. A fully charged canal boat battery bank contains an enormous amount of stored energy.

If a spanner is accidentally dropped across the terminals, the energy released would be enough to melt the spanner, possibly partially vaporise it, and even cause an explosive shower of hot lead, molten plastic and sulphuric acid! AND THAT’S JUST A SINGLE BATTERY!

The Boat Safety Scheme requires a lot of attention in this area and rightly so.

If In Doubt…

Please consult your local BSS examiner or marine surveyor for clarification on what the current regulations concerning the installation of canal boat batteries demand. This chapter is intended to give you an insight into what is best practice and what the BSS examiner will be looking for regarding your installation.

What is a battery compartment?

This is defined as an area or enclosure that is intended to house batteries exclusively.

Battery Boxes… What You Need To Know

The battery compartment should be well ventilated. Lead acid batteries, especially the wet cell type, will emit explosive gases. There are numerous interpretations of battery installation and at the very least, the batteries should be contained in a unit that prevents them moving around. For example, a battery installed on the swim of a boat may be prevented from moving by being contained in a purpose built, insulated, tray. It may be open at the sides but could be capped by a wooden or plastic ventilated lid and strapped down by a ratchet strap.

Where Can You Install Batteries?

Batteries can be installed in accommodation areas or in engine bays. Check with your BSS examiner regarding your specific circumstance, but here are the general guidelines covering both.

In accommodation areas the battery must be installed in gas tight areas that are ventilated to the outside. These may or may not require assisted fan ventilation and if you are in any way unsure, check with your marine examiner/surveyor.

If the battery compartment is in the engine bay, no specific ventilation is required so long as the bay itself is ventilated externally.

Securing Your Battery

The battery must be secured so that a movement of 10mm in any direction is not exceeded and it must remain secure at up to 45 degrees from horizontal.

It is acceptable to secure the battery by straps, clamps or a framework. In any case the battery compartment must be secured permanently to the structure of the vessel.

Where ever your battery is located, it should not be beneath any LPG or petrol installation including lockers, pipework and fuel tanks. The battery should be insulated from the metal hull as any leakage of electrolyte can eat through the metal structure of your boat.

Put a Lid On It

The lid over the battery is designed to prevent the terminal coming into contact with any conducting object such as a dropped spanner or set of keys. It should be of non-corrosive and insulating material such as wood, vulcanized rubber or plastics and should contain ventilation to prevent the build up of gasses. It is acceptable for a deck board to form a battery cover so long as it is not required to be removed for any purpose other that to access the batteries.

Purpose built battery boxes are available from most chandlers which simplify the installation of single batteries such as starter batteries. In all cases, refer to your local engineer, the Boat Safety Scheme examiner or marine surveyor for up to date compliance advice.

A fully fitted canal boat will come with the batteries properly secured, however this may not be the case on a new sailaway canal boat as you may only be supplied with a starter battery. If you are undertaking a self fit-out then you must ensure the batteries are housed in accordance with BSS guidelines.

Battery Boxes

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