Arguably, no material can match the cost-effectiveness and dependability of rubber and PVC – specifically synthetic rubber and polyvinyl chloride compound – in numerous marine applications. Besides its well-known elasticity, rubber can resist the harshest conditions in the open seas when cured and coated. Furthermore, EPDM rubber won’t easily corrode in a salt-rich environment or fade under intense UV radiation. While PVC option also allows the same benefits as EPDM rubber compounds.
Thes materials for all intents and purposes, an unsung hero of the marine industry. The crevices and gaps marine rubber products fill may not attract global recognition, but the industry might fall on hard times without them. Boats and vessels would suffer damage, cargo couldn’t be made air or watertight when needed, and crews left and right would get hurt or worse.
How exactly does this material work to the industry’s benefit? Keep reading to learn the various uses of rubber in the marine industry.
Docks, marinas, and harbours can hold flotillas of boats and vessels due in
no small part to rubber marine fenders. Installed either along the jetty’s sides or placed between moored boats, fenders mitigate the risk of collision.
Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber is the type of choice for manufacturing these pieces of equipment. Aside from its high resistance to outdoor conditions, EPDM fenders stick to metal surfaces easily. This is why they’re often fashioned into D fenders, which are placed along the length of the boat’s hull.
Having a density less than that of water, enables rubber marine fenders to float, whether chained to the jetty or the boats they keep apart. This proves useful for larger vessels conducting ship-to-ship transfers. The boats deploy huge fenders between them to maintain a safe distance when transferring cargo and supplies.
Rubber outdoes metal when it comes to keeping doors and windows sealed at all times. While it degrades over time, synthetic rubber is treated with various chemicals to slow the process caused by maritime conditions. Untreated rubber exposed to salt, UV radiation, and ozone will become brittle and break up.
Extrusion is one of the most common ways of processing rubber (and the term also refers to the product). It involves squeezing out rubber through an extruder and forcing it through a custom-shaped die. Afterwards, the extrusion undergoes vulcanisation and cutting or splicing, depending on where and how it’ll be used.
Again, EPDM rubber is a practical choice for marine extrusions. On a related note, despite its name and widespread use in marine environments, gunwale rubber isn’t a type of rubber but rather polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl).
Slip-and-fall accidents are the most common causes of injuries aboard vessels. The deck always gets drenched in the open seas, setting the ideal conditions for spraining an ankle or landing on the deck head-first. Too many people have had their maritime careers end due to these mishaps, not to mention too many lawsuits filed against their employers.
Wet surfaces reduce the grip of any surface, which is why ship decks need non-slip deck matting. PVC or EVA foam comes to mind here due to its high coefficient of friction against any surface. In other words, the soles of marine boots and footwear can have a strong grip when stepping or standing on rubber deck matting, even when wet (safety protocols are still a must, though).
The best places to install some form of deck matting include stair steps and parts of the deck with the most foot traffic. Most of them can be installed by peeling off the protective wrap on the side with the adhesive and sticking them on the surface. To ensure proper adhesion, place the matting when the surface is dry.
Crews of cargo vessels work to ensure that the cargo hold stays dry during transit. Logistics may enclose items in watertight containers, though there’s no guarantee that every crate or container can sufficiently protect cargo from water. Also, no amount of impermeability can protect cargo from an onrush of seawater from poorly sealed hatches.
To mitigate such a risk, hatch seals have rubber seals known as hatch packing. Due to their purpose, hatch packing can only be made with high-grade marine rubber and is larger than the seals used for doors and windows. In fact, the initial stage of maintenance works for hatch covers often entails determining the integrity of the existing hatch packing.
For hatch packing, EPDM and neoprene rubber are viable options. Neoprene rubber provides all the advantages of synthetic rubber but with the added advantage of resistance to petroleum-based oils and solvents. Such a feature can only be found in a few types of rubber.
From recreational boating to maritime logistics, the marine industry significantly depends on marine-grade rubber products. While these products remain obscure from the public eye, their roles in keeping ships afloat are undeniable. Keep these uses in mind the next time you go on a journey by boat or cargo vessel.