What's the difference between watertight and weathertight?

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Hose test on ship door

We receive a lot of questions about the difference between watertight and weathertight. In this article, we will briefly explain the difference between these two characteristics, as used in marine applications.


A watertight ship door or hatch withstands a so-called 'water column' (water pressure) from both sides.

The closure between two compartments below the waterline will typically be watertight. It is essential that these compartments are resistant against great water pressure, as is the case during a major water leakage. Due to a watertight closure, the leakage won't spread and the vessel will stay afloat. Because this watertight closure is so essential for the safety of the vessel, classification is required for in most cases. 

The watertightness of a ship door or hatch is tested by mounting the door or hatch into a tank and applying a certain water pressure from the inside. If the water is coming from the outside of the door or hatch, the door leaf or hatch lid is pressed into the seal by the water pressure which helps to seal. Water coming from the inside, will counterwork. This way, the watertightness of a product can be easily measured. 


A weathertight ship door or hatch is designed to withstand water pressure from one side (the outside).

Typical locations where you will find weathertight closures are above the waterline, for example on the deck or in the wheelhouse of the ship. Weathertight doors or hatches are designed to withstand the weather conditions as found offshore. They can be submerged for a short period as would occur when hit by a standing wave.

Classification is, in most cases, not required as weathertight closures are generally tested with a high-pressure hose, which is directed at the seal. This test is also performed before the sea trial.

We will describe the classification system in another article, which will be published soon.

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