Bulletin No.: 15/1996

Date (Y-M-D): 1996-11-14

Subject: Buoyancy Foams for Marine Use

This bulletin is directed to owners, operators and crews of small open boats in particular, and the marine industry in general.

Poly-ether-urethane foam is commonly used as buoyancy material in small vessels, and open fiberglass boats for added buoyancy. This material has been known to resist attacks by water (hydrolysis) and by micro-organisms. However, a research in connection with a recent accident investigation indicates that the prolonged exposure of poly-ether-urethane foam to water and air may result in deterioration. Chemical composition and water absorption experiments established that, due to degradation, foam may absorb water like a sponge, significantly reducing its buoyancy quality. As such, in emergency situations, it may not serve its intended purpose as a buoyancy material.

While the potential for degradation exists, its effects may be reduced through proper care and inspection. Owners of small boats fitted with inherently buoyant materials such as poly-ether-urethane foams are therefore reminded that:

  • such materials should be protected from undue prolonged exposure to seawater, oil and oil products;
  • the general condition and effectiveness of buoyancy materials are to be monitored at all times.

Keywords:                                  Questions concerning this bulletin should be addressed to:

1. Foam
2. Buoyancy material
3. Poly-ether-urethane
L. Ayeko
Transport Canada
Marine Safety
Tower C, Place de Ville
11th Floor, 330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N8

To add or change your address, contact us at: marinesafety@tc.gc.ca

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