The Growing Use Of Lithium-Ion Batteries Is Increasing Fire Risk On Vessels

By January 10, 2023 January 17th, 2023 No Comments

Recent industry press articles and conferences are putting a focus on the growing use and transportation of lithium Ion (li-ion) batteries by boats and ships and the resulting increase in on board fires caused by these batteries. It is therefore essential that all personnel working in the maritime industry are fully aware of the potential dangers of these batteries and how to minimise best the risks associated with them. 

Lithium-ion batteries come with some risks

Why li-ion batteries are used on boats and ships

Lithium-ion batteries are often used on yachts and ships for several reasons. One reason is their high energy density, which means they can store a large amount of energy in a small space. This makes them ideal for use in marine applications where space is limited.

Another is that lithium-ion batteries are relatively lightweight, which is important for ships that need to minimize their weight in order to be more efficient. Lithium-ion batteries are also known for their high power-to-weight ratio, meaning they can deliver a lot of power relative to their size and weight.

Lithium-ion batteries also have a relatively long lifespan compared to other types of batteries, which makes them an attractive choice for use on ships where access to replacement batteries may be limited.
Finally, lithium-ion batteries are relatively low maintenance compared to other types of batteries, which is important for use on ships where maintenance resources may be limited.

Overall, the combination of high energy density, low weight, high power-to-weight ratio, long lifespan, and low maintenance make lithium-ion batteries an attractive choice for use on ships.

Dangers of li-ion batteries

There are several dangers to consider when using lithium-ion batteries on ships. One danger is the risk of thermal runaway, which occurs when the temperature of the battery increases to the point where it can no longer be controlled. This can lead to the battery overheating, catching fire, and potentially exploding. To prevent this, it’s important to use lithium-ion batteries that are properly rated for marine use and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and handling them.

Li-ion batteries are now shipped all over the world

Another potential danger is that lithium-ion batteries can release flammable gases when they are overcharged or damaged. If these gases are ignited, they can cause a fire. To prevent this, it’s important to use a battery charger that is designed for use with lithium-ion batteries and to avoid overcharging the battery.

Finally, lithium-ion batteries can be damaged by water exposure, which can lead to reduced performance and shortened lifespan. To protect the battery from water damage, it’s important to ensure that it is sealed correctly to keep it dry and to store it in a dry place when not in use.

So while lithium-ion batteries offer many benefits for use on ships, it’s important to handle and use them with care to minimise the risk of accidents.

Transportation of lithium-ion batteries

Many products being shipped all over the world are now powered by lithium-ion batteries. The ubiquitous personal transportation scooters that are now used in towns and cities all over the world use li-ion batteries. These scooters are largely manufactured in the Far East and then transported to customers all over the World.

As such, cargo ships carrying large quantities of products containing these batteries may also be at risk of accidents or fires due to the hazardous materials they are transporting. It’s important for cargo ships carrying lithium-ion batteries to follow proper safety procedures and to have adequate fire suppression systems in place to minimize the risk of accidents.

 1. Use appropriate packaging: lithium-ion batteries should be packaged in a way that prevents short circuits and physical damage. This may involve using protective materials such as foam or bubble wrap, or using packaging designed specifically for lithium-ion batteries.

 2. Follow applicable regulations: There are various regulations that may apply to the transportation of lithium-ion batteries, depending on the mode of transportation and the type of battery being transported. It’s important to be familiar with these regulations and to follow them to ensure the safe transport of the batteries.

 3. Handle the batteries with care: lithium-ion batteries should be handled with care to prevent damage and reduce the risk of accidents. This may include avoiding dropping or otherwise mishandling the batteries and following proper procedures for loading and unloading them.

 4. Store the batteries safely: When not in use, lithium-ion batteries should be stored in a safe, dry location. They should be stored at room temperature and away from sources of heat or ignition.

 5. Monitor the batteries during transport: It’s important to monitor the condition of the lithium-ion batteries during transport to ensure they are not damaged and to act if any issues arise.

Overall, the key to safely transporting lithium-ion batteries is to handle them with care and to follow all applicable regulations and best practices.

Vassallo Associates can advise on all aspects of maritime safety, do not hesitate to contact us today for a no-obligation consultation on how we can assist you.

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