Guidelines published for safe transport of lithium-ion batteries in containers

Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Source: Splash 24/7

The Lithium-ion Batteries in Containers Guidelines, published yesterday by several industry bodies, seek to prevent the increasing risks that the transport of lithium-ion batteries by sea creates, providing suggestions for identifying such risks.

Extensive measures to safely transport what is an exponentially increasing volume of lithium-ion batteries, in their various states or charge and when also contained in electronic devices are fully examined including, classification and regulation, container packing, landside storage, stowage onboard ships, incident detection and fire suppression, and loss prevention and risk mitigation.

To prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, the guidelines advise manufacturers and supply chain stakeholders to address vulnerabilities to thermal runaway cascading, ventilation, and suppression in existing and operational lithium-ion battery packaged systems in containers. Among other suggestions are urgent calls to update industry standards, and training as well as more cargo screening and inspections and for maritime transport to apply the same packaging instructions as for aviation. New fire fighting techniques, such as new aerosol techniques, are also advised, something that the International Maritime Organization is looking at.

“We strongly urge all stakeholders in the production, supply, transport, handling and sale of lithium-ion batteries whether as individual components or integrated into an electronic device, vehicle or other product to recognise their responsibilities in maximising safety when in transit,” commented Dirk Van de Velde, deputy chair of the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS).

Intended as the first of an on-going series of publications to be updated as circumstances require this first, Lithium-ion Batteries in Containers Guidelines provides a general overview, and will be followed by three further documents – regulatory compliance check-lists, risk assessment and emergency response, and training and educational awareness.

The dangers of carrying lithium-ion batteries on ships was highlighted in an Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality report, which ranked fire and explosion as the number one cause of marine insurance losses by value from 2017 to 2021. The research, issued in November 2022, also revealed the growing threat of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries that are not stored, handled or transported correctly.

Recently, serious and sometimes catastrophic incidents involving lithium-ion batteries have become more commonplace, with fires reported in all modes of transport – ocean, air and land — as well as in warehouses and where such consignments are at rest.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox, risk management director at freight transport insurer TT Club, commented, “As the pressure on all forms of economic activity for decarbonisation increases, the use of these batteries will inevitably escalate at rates we have previously not experienced. Air transport has been heavily restricted already and it is clear that surface modes will be called upon to transport these goods. As an adaptable unit, the container will remain a focal point for safe transport, including for EVs alongside other vehicle carriers. The intermodal nature of containers means more actors other than shipping lines, be they manufacturers, packers, forwarders, logistics operators, warehouses and cargo handlers must all be cognisant of the safety issues we are addressing and play their part in ensuring the risks are properly managed.”


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