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25 September 2022 The on-line newspaper devoted to the world of transports 13:02 GMT+2

August 31, 2022

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Prevention measures are essential to combat the fire hazard in the maritime transport of lithium batteries

All risk mitigation must contribute to supply chain players

The transport of lithium-ion batteries, with the connected fire risks, represents a challenge for all modes of transport, and in particular for maritime transport such as demonstrate the numerous fires that have occurred on ro-ro ships and container holders. Risk that, given the difficulties of extinguishing battery fires on board ships, especially during navigation - highlights the report "Lithium-ion batteries: fire risks and loss prevention measures in shipping" of the insurance company Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) - can be avoided by adopting specific prevention measures, whether the batteries are transported in electric vehicles that as a load in itself standing.

Among the recommendations to mitigate the risk of fire that may result from lithium-ion batteries during the transport of electric vehicles on car carrier ships and within containers indicate the need to ensure that the staff is trained to follow the correct procedures of packaging and handling and that seafarers have received fire training on ion batteries of lithium; verifying that the state of charge (SOC) of the battery is at the optimal level for transport, where possible; the guarantee that electric vehicles with a low ground clearance are properly labelled as they may present problems of loading/unloading; verification that all electric vehicles are correctly fixed to avoid any movement during the transport. While browsing, everything you can contribute to the timely detection of fires is fundamental, including guard shifts and the use of scanners thermal, gas detectors, heat/smoke detectors and cameras closed circuit.

The AGCS report highlights four main threats: fire (lithium-ion batteries contain electrolytes, flammable); explosion (resulting from the release of vapours/gases flammable in a confined space); "thermal runaway" (a rapid self-heating fire that can cause an explosion) and the toxic gases that such events can produce. These accidents are mainly the consequence of a production of substandard batteries/devices, of excessive battery charging, overheating due to short circuits and damage to batteries or devices which, among other causes, may result from packaging and inadequate handling or displacement of the load if not properly fixed.

The report also highlights a number of measures that can help ensure safe storage of batteries at lithium-ion in warehouses, noting that large batteries format, such as those used in electric vehicles, take fire faster than smaller ones used in smartphones and laptops. In addition, the recommendations include training staff on the correct packaging and handling procedures; the establishment of a plan emergency response to treat damaged batteries or overheated and a risk control plan to manage the receipt, storage, dispatch and supervision of packed lithium-ion batteries; prevention exposure to high temperatures and separation from other combustible materials; timely removal of damaged or defective batteries.

Finally, the report lists recent maritime incidents in which the fire of a battery has been cited as possible cause or trigger, starting from the fire and the next sinking of the ro-ro Felicity Ace in March 2022. In The same month, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a warning. safety on the risk posed by ion batteries lithium following two different fires of container ships. In the June 2020 a fire on car carrier Höegh Xiamen in Florida it had occurred because the batteries of the vehicles had not been disconnected and fixed following the correct procedures In January 2020, a fire on the COSCO Pacific container ship had been attributed to the combustion of a load of batteries to the lithium-ion not declared correctly.

"The batteries - explained Rahul Khanna, head of Marine Risk Consulting by AGCS - they are not just a potential cause fire during transport by sea, if damaged, overloaded or subjected to high temperatures, but they can also amplify fires in place and they are difficult to extinguish because they can come back on again after days or even weeks. In most accidents on board ships, a thermal runaway event can be a real risk unless the crew undertakes immediate action with fire suppression through the use of abundant amounts of water for a long time period of time. This timely but necessary reaction can however to be extremely difficult for several reasons such as the difficulty of early detection, the shortage of members of the crew on board and the inadequacy of firefighting resources available on ships'. "The companies - he noted Khanna - they should do everything possible to introduce, develop and follow robust prevention measures, given that the Growing popularity of electric vehicles means that in future many more vehicles will be transported by sea with lithium-ion batteries'.

Commander Randall Lund, senior marine risk consultant at AGCS, author of the report together with colleagues Miguel Herrera and Justin Kersey, AGCS maritime risk advisor, highlighted that to mitigate the risks of shipments of Lithium batteries must contribute to all actors in the supply chain, and not only maritime transport operators: "if the maritime industry wants to reduce the number of accidents related to the transport of lithium-ion batteries - he clarified - all the parties involved must understand the associated hazards, the most common and the problems associated with commercial transport. The regulations and guidelines to treat these batteries are very specific and help prevent most accidents, but they can only be effective if they are communicated and made respect. Only through a concerted effort on the part of the Stakeholders in the supply chain can hope to reduce the accident rate'.

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