Fire and explosion risks from lithium-ion batteries are increasing and impacting supply chains

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are having an increasing impact on shipping and supply chain safety, as evidenced by a number of fires on vessels such as cargo carriers. ro-ro cars and container ships.

Given the many challenges of suppressing such incidents, especially at sea, it is crucial to focus on loss prevention measures whether batteries are transported in electric vehicles (EVs) or as stand-alone cargo. , according to a new report from marine insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS).

The report “Lithium-ion batteries: fire risks and loss prevention measures in maritime transport” highlights four main risks: fire (lithium-ion batteries contain electrolyte, a flammable liquid); explosion (resulting from the release of flammable vapours/gases in a confined space); thermal runaway (a fire that heats up quickly and can cause an explosion); and the toxic gases these hazards can produce. The most common causes of these hazards are substandard manufacture of battery cells/devices; overcharging of battery cells; overheating due to short circuit and damaged battery cells or devices, which, among other causes, can result from poor packaging and handling or moving cargo in rough seas they are not properly secured.

The focus should be on loss prevention, and in the report, AGCS experts highlight a number of recommendations for companies to consider, focusing on two areas in particular: storage and transit.

Among other things, recommendations to mitigate the risk of fire that can potentially result from Li-ion batteries during transport of electric vehicles on car carriers and in cargo containers include ensuring personnel are trained to follow proper packing and handling procedures and that sailors have had Li-ion battery firefighting training; verify that the battery’s state of charge (SOC) is at the optimum level for transport when possible; ensure electric vehicles with low ground clearance are labelled, as this may present loading/unloading difficulties; and check that all mobility devices are properly secured to prevent shifting during transport.

In transit, anything that can help with early detection is essential, including surveillance/fire patrols and the use of thermal scanners, gas detectors, heat/smoke detectors and CCTV cameras.

The report also highlights a number of measures that can help ensure safe storage of Li-ion batteries in warehouses, noting that large batteries, such as those used in electric vehicles, ignite more quickly. in a burning warehouse than the smaller batteries used in smartphones and laptops. Among other things, recommendations include training staff in proper packaging and handling procedures; establish an emergency response plan to address damaged/overheated batteries and a hazard control plan to manage the receipt, storage, shipping and supervision of packaged Li-ion batteries; prevent exposure of batteries to high temperatures and ensure separation from other combustible materials; as well as the prompt removal of damaged or defective Li-ion batteries.

Read the report (PDF).