New whitepaper discusses continuing safety threat of sea transport of lithium-ion batteries

A firefighter inspects the exterior of the Norwegian-owned electric tour boat Brim after the vessel was evacuated following reports of smoke in its battery compartment on March 11, 2021. (Photo: Vestfold Intermunicipal Fire Brigade official Facebook page)

Insurers TT Club and UK P&I Club have teamed up with scientific consultancy Brookes Bell and issued a whitepaper highlighting the continuing safety threat created by the transportation of lithium-ion batteries.

The partners said the publishing of the whitepaper raises awareness of the dangers inherent in the transport of lithium-ion batteries, particularly by sea.

The whitepaper outlines many of the numerous challenges facing the transport industry and raises awareness of the potentially catastrophic situation that can be caused by battery failure, thus in part correcting the widely held perception in the maritime community that risks in the supply chain of such products are relatively small.

“The consequences of battery failure and the resultant thermal runaway must be clearly understood and the correct procedures for handling them adhered to throughout their lifespan,” said Stuart Edmonston, Loss Prevention Director of the UK P&I Club. “The dangers can exist no matter the status of the battery; charged, semi-charged, used, second-hand or scrap, and whether present in devices and vehicles or packaged separately.”

The topics covered in this comprehensive whitepaper include details of the background science behind lithium-ion batteries, the dangers associated with transporting them, and why they arise, such as insufficient testing and incorrect declaration. The paper also provides a review of current dangerous goods (DG) regulatory provisions, focusing on the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, with recommendations for change or further work.

The final section of the paper discusses the current state of the firefighting provision and changes that could be implemented.

The authors also put forward guidelines to help pre-empt dangerous incidents by correct classification and declaration, safe and effective packaging, mandatory markings and labelling, uniformity of regulations regarding testing and suitable storage environments while batteries are awaiting transport.

The full text of the whitepaper can be downloaded free of charge at the TT Club website here.

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