Allianz: Prevention Measures Crucial to Tackling Risk of Battery Fires in Shipping (2022)

  • Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty report highlights main hazards and causes of fire if lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles or cargo are not stored, handled or transported correctly following a number of incidents.

  • Given the difficulties involved in extinguishing battery fires at sea companies’ primary focus should be on loss prevention.

  • Measures to consider include ensuring staff/crew receive adequate training and access to appropriate firefighting equipment, improving early detection systems and developing hazard control and emergency plans.

  • AGCS analysis shows that fire/explosion is the third top cause of shipping losses over the past decade and the most expensive cause of marine insurance claims over the past five years.

NEW YORK, August 31, 2022--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As a key component of electric vehicles (EVs) or electronic devices, the transport of highly inflammable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries is increasingly impacting shipping safety as demonstrated by a number of fires on vessels such as roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) car carriers and container ships. Given the many difficulties involved with suppressing battery fires, particularly at sea, focusing on loss prevention measures is crucial, whether batteries are transported within EVs or as standalone cargo, according to a new report from marine insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) .

"Shipping losses may have more than halved over the past decade1 but fires on board vessels remain among the biggest safety issues for the industry. The potential dangers that the transportation of lithium-ion batteries pose if they are not stored or handled correctly only add to these concerns, and we have already seen a number of incidents," explains Captain Rahul Khanna, Global Head of Marine Risk Consulting at AGCS. "Companies should do all that they possibly can to implement, develop and follow robust loss prevention measures, given the growing popularity of electric vehicles means many more vehicles with lithium-ion batteries will be transported by sea in future."

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Hazards and causes

The report Lithium-ion batteries: Fire risks and loss prevention measures in shipping highlights four main hazards: fire (Li-ion batteries contain electrolyte, an ignitable liquid); explosion (resulting from the release of ignitable vapor/gases in a confined space); thermal runaway (a rapid self-heating fire that can cause an explosion); and the toxic gases that these hazards can produce. The most common causes of these hazards are substandard manufacturing of battery cells/devices; over-charging of the battery cells; over-temperature by short circuiting, and damaged battery cells or devices, which, among other causes, can result from poor packing and handling or cargo shift in rough seas if not adequately secured.

"Batteries are not only a potential cause of fire if damaged, overcharged or subjected to high temperatures, they can also aggravate other causes of fire at sea and are difficult to extinguish as they have the potential to reignite days or even weeks later," says Khanna. "In most shipboard incidents a thermal runaway event can be a significant possibility unless immediate action is taken by the crew, such as suppressing a fire with copious amounts of water over a long period of time. However, this can be extremely challenging due to factors such as early detection being difficult, a shortage of crew members on board, and if the vessel’s firefighting capabilities are inadequate."

Loss prevention measures for EVs on car carriers and in containers

The primary focus must therefore 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 in transit.

Among others, recommendations to mitigate the fire risk that can potentially result from Li-ion batteries during the transportation of EVs on car carriers and within freight containers include ensuring staff are trained to follow correct packing and handling procedures and that seafarers have had Li-ion battery firefighting training; checking the battery’s state of charge (SOC) is at the optimal level for transportation where possible; ensuring that EVs with low ground clearance are labelled as this can present loading/discharging challenges; and checking all EVs are properly secured to prevent any shifting during transportation. In transit, anything that can aid early detection is critical, including watchkeeping/fire rounds and utilizing thermal scanners, gas detectors, heat/smoke detectors, and CCTV cameras.

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The report also highlights a number of measures that can help ensure safe storage of Li-ion batteries in warehouses, noting that large-format batteries, such as those used in EVs, ignite more quickly in a warehouse fire than smaller batteries used in smartphones and laptops. Among others, recommendations include training staff in appropriate packing and handling procedures; establishing an emergency response plan to tackle damaged/overheating batteries and a hazard control plan to manage receiving, storage, dispatch and supervision of packaged Li-ion batteries; preventing the exposure of batteries to high temperatures and ensuring separation from other combustible materials; as well as prompt removal of damaged or defective Li-ion batteries.

"If the maritime industry is to improve its incident record related to the transportation of lithium-ion batteries all parties involved in the supply chain must understand the hazards involved, the most common causes and the problems associated with transporting in commerce," says Captain Randall Lund, Senior Marine Risk Consultant at AGCS, author of the report together with fellow AGCS marine risk consultants Miguel Herrera and Justin Kersey. "Regulations and guidance are specific in addressing these batteries to help prevent most incidents, but these can only be effective if they are communicated and enforced. Only through a concerted effort by stakeholders in the supply chain can we hope to reduce the rate of incidents."

Other relevant findings from the expert risk article accompanying the report:

  • Recent incidents in which a battery fire was cited as a possible cause or contributing factor include the March 2022 fire and subsequent sinking of ro-ro carrier Felicity Ace. In the same month, the US Coast Guard issued a safety alert about the risk posed by Li-ion batteries following two separate container fires. In June 2020 a fire on the car carrier Höegh Xiamen in Florida was attributed to a failure to properly disconnect and secure vehicle batteries. In January 2020, a fire on the container ship Cosco Pacific was attributed to the combustion of a Li-ion battery cargo which was not properly declared.

  • AGCS analysis of over 240,000 marine insurance industry claims over the past five years (with a value of €9.2bn), shows that fire/explosion (from all causes) is the most expensive cause of loss, accounting for 18% of the value of all claims2.

  • The number of fires (from all causes) on board large vessels has increased significantly in recent years. Across all vessel types, fire/explosion was the second top cause of the 54 total losses reported in 2021 (8), second only to foundered (12). Over the past decade fire/explosion ranks as the third top cause of loss overall, accounting for 120 out of 892 reported total losses, behind foundered (465) and wrecked/stranded (164).

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  • Ro-ro and car carriers can be more exposed to fire and stability issues than other vessels. To facilitate carriage of automobiles the internal spaces are not divided into separate sections like other cargo ships. The lack of internal bulkheads can have an adverse impact on fire safety and a small fire on one vehicle or battery can grow out of control very quickly. Vehicles are not easily accessible once loading has been completed. The large volume of air inside the open cargo decks provides a ready supply of oxygen in case of fire.

The report and further materials are available for download here.

About Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) is a leading global corporate insurance carrier and a key business unit of Allianz Group. We provide risk consultancy, Property-Casualty insurance solutions and alternative risk transfer for a wide spectrum of commercial, corporate and specialty risks across nine dedicated lines of business and six regional hubs.

Our customers are as diverse as business can be, ranging from Fortune Global 500 companies to small businesses. Among them are not only the world’s largest consumer brands, financial institutions, tech companies and the global aviation and shipping industry, but also satellite operators or Hollywood film productions. They all look to AGCS for smart solutions and global programs to their largest and most complex risks in a dynamic, multinational business environment and trust us to deliver an outstanding claims experience.

Worldwide, AGCS operates with its own teams in more than 30 countries and through the Allianz Group network and partners in over 200 countries and territories, employing around 4,250 people. As one of the largest Property-Casualty units of Allianz Group, we are backed by strong and stable financial ratings. In 2021, AGCS generated a total of €9.5 billion gross premium globally.

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Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

____________________________
1
AGCS Safety & Shipping Review 2022, 54 total losses (over 100 GT) at end of 2021 compared to 127 at the end of 2012.
2 between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2021

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220831005101/en/

Contacts

Press:
Sabrina Glavan
Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty
973-876-3902
sabrina.glavan@agcs.allianz.com

Erin Burke
Stanton
631-681-8770
eburke@stantonprm.com

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FAQs

What are the safety requirements for handling and storing lithium batteries? ›

Store lithium batteries and devices in dry, cool locations. Avoid damaging lithium batteries and devices. Inspect them for signs of damage, such as bulging/cracking, hissing, leaking, rising temperature, and smoking before use, especially if they are wearable.

What precaution should you take with lithium batteries to prevent possible fires or damage? ›

Keep batteries at room temperature and in dry spaces. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight, near heaters or in hot vehicles as exposure to a hot environment can cause thermal runaway and catch fire. For long-term storage, place electrical tape over the battery contacts and store them in a metal container.

What is the best method to stop a lithium battery fire? ›

The only way to extinguish a lithium battery fire is to flood the battery with water. A Lithium Fire Blanket will safely isolate a lithium fire battery for hours, until it can be flooded and extinguished.

How do you deal with battery fires? ›

Larger battery fires are best handled with a foam extinguisher, CO2, ABC dry chemical, powder graphite, copper powder or sodium carbonate. If the fire can't be extinguished, you'll need to let it burn in a controlled way, dousing the surrounding area with water to prevent the fire from spreading.

Why is battery safety important? ›

If uncontrolled, it could result in a chain reaction of cell failures, causing the battery to heat up even more and spiral out of control. External factors like keeping the battery very close to a heat source or near a fire can cause it to explode.

How do you properly handle batteries? ›

How to handle battery
  1. Always wear acid resistant clothing, protective goggles, PVC gloves and rubber boots.
  2. Avoid smoking, sparks and flames near operating or charging lead acid batteries.
  3. Keep Metal objects away from terminals.
  4. Batteries are heavy. Lift carefully and do not place on unstable surfaces.

What are the precautions for using a lead acid battery? ›

Lead-Acid Battery Safety Precautions

Wear acid-resistant goggles/face shield, gloves, and if available, an apron, when recharging or handling lead-acid batteries, Keep lead-acid battery vent caps securely in place. Rinse the affected area immediately with large amounts of water if acid gets on your skin.

What causes battery fires? ›

Once one battery cell goes into thermal runaway, it produces enough heat to cause adjacent battery cells to also go into thermal runaway. This produces a fire that repeatedly flares up as each battery cell in turn ruptures and releases its contents.

How do you ship a broken lithium-ion battery? ›

Important: No Air Transport for Damaged Lithium Batteries
  1. Each cell and battery must be placed in individual, non-metallic inner packagings that completely enclose the cell/battery;
  2. The inner packagings must be surrounded by non-combustible, non-conductive, and absorbent cushioning material; and.
17 Sept 2019

How do you clean a lithium battery fire? ›

For best results dousing a lithium-ion fire, use a foam extinguisher, CO2, ABC dry chemical, powdered graphite, copper powder, or soda (sodium carbonate) as you would extinguish other combustible fires. Reserve the Class D extinguishers for lithium-metal fires only.

What should you do if you suspect a lithium-ion battery fire quizlet? ›

In the industry recommended procedure to put out a lithium battery fire, what should be done after extinguishing the fire? Cool down the device and let rest untouched for 15 minutes.

What temperature does a lithium-ion battery burn at? ›

Fire ignition establishes that the cathode of the battery can catch fire. The burning lithium creates a metal fire existing at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Celsius/3632 degrees Fahrenheit.

What happens if you burn a lithium-ion battery? ›

Fire & Combustion

A punctured lithium-ion battery can lead to a serious fire in some cases. Potent electrolytes can leak through the hole, often creating chemical reactions that release heat. This heat can then damage other battery cells, creating a chain reaction of damage. This process is called thermal runaway.

Why are battery fires hard to put out? ›

All batteries, including lithium-ion batteries, use positive and negative electrodes and an electrolyte solution, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. What makes a lithium-ion battery more difficult to extinguish is its use of a highly flammable organic electrolyte, Reuters reported.

What happens if you put a lithium-ion battery in water? ›

Do not expose the battery to water or moisture. Water can corrode or damage the internal battery safety devices and cause the battery to overheat, ignite, rupture or leak.

What are the dangers of batteries? ›

Many batteries, such as button batteries, are small enough to be swallowed by children. This can cause serious internal injuries and even death. Batteries, such as lithium-ion batteries, can also overheat, leak, burst, and even explode and catch fire, causing serious injuries if they are not properly: installed.

What are the dangers of improper battery handling? ›

1) Improperly disposed batteries contribute to water and air pollution. When depleted batteries are tossed into the trash, they end up in landfills where they decay and leak. As batteries corrode, their chemicals soak into soil and contaminate groundwater and surface water.

Is it safe to handle batteries? ›

Keeping metal away from batteries will prevent that metal from touching one or more of the battery's terminals. When metal touches terminals, it can result in sparks, an electrical shock (leading to mild electrocution), fire, or even a full-on explosion.

What are the safety items should be there in the battery room? ›

According to OSHA, personal protective equipment for the battery room should include acid-resistant face shields, goggles, gloves, aprons, and boots.

What are four main hazards associated with batteries? ›

These are the four main hazards associated with batteries:
  • Acid. The electrolyte in a battery is corrosive and can burn skin or eyes, eat holes in clothing, or even scratch a concrete floor.
  • Flammable gas. Batteries emit hydrogen gas, which is flammable. ...
  • Electrical shock. ...
  • Weight.

What are the hazards and risks in charging the batteries? ›

The charging of lead-acid batteries can be hazardous. However, many workers may not see it that way since it is such a common activity in many workplaces. The two primary risks are from hydrogen gas formed when the battery is being charged and the sulfuric acid in the battery fluid.

What protection is to be worn when working around batteries? ›

To avoid splashing acid in your face, wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as chemical splash goggles and a face shield. Wear acid-resistant equipment such as gauntlet style gloves, an apron, and boots.

What safety concerns should you have about battery cells and capacitors in a disconnected electrical device? ›

It may cause fire, heat generation, leakage or bursting. It may cause bursting or fire due to unbalanced load or voltage.

What kind of batteries catch fire? ›

From a non-technical point of view, lithium-ion batteries catch fire as they are extremely sensitive to high temperatures, even degrading much faster than ordinary ones due to heat. They are highly flammable on the inside.

What happens if you have a lithium battery in checked luggage? ›

If carry-on baggage is checked at the gate or planeside, spare lithium batteries, electronic cigarettes, and vaping devices must be removed from the baggage and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin. Even in carry-on baggage, these items should be protected from damage, accidental activation and short circuits.

What is the problem with lithium batteries? ›

Alongside recycling, producing lithium batteries is also dangerous. Mining the various metals needed to make a lithium battery requires extensive resources — it takes 500,000 gallons of water to mine one ton of lithium. Mining for the metals in lithium batteries is also known to be toxic to human health.

What are the rules for shipping batteries? ›

How to ship lithium batteries
  • The cell and battery types have passed the applicable UN tests.
  • All terminals are protected against short circuits.
  • Packaging limits are met.
  • Appropriate inner and outer packaging is used.
  • packages bear the required marks and labels.
  • The required documentation is completed.
13 Aug 2021

How do you package batteries for shipping? ›

The best way to do this is to keep batteries in the original, manufacturer-sealed packaging. 2. If batteries are not sealed in manufacturer packaging, the battery terminals should be protected (e.g., covered with tape, placed in separate bags) to prevent short circuits.

How can you tell if a battery is lithium? ›

Lithium metal batteries will use labels with one of the following UN numbers: UN3090. UN3091.

Can you ship damaged lithium batteries? ›

Note that there are no exceptions from any HMR requirements (e.g., training, shipping papers, marking, labeling) for damaged lithium cells or batteries. Many packages designed to ship damaged, defective, or recalled batteries are subject to the terms of a DOT Special Permit (DOT-SP).

What happens when lithium touches water? ›

Lithium reacts intensely with water, forming lithium hydroxide and highly flammable hydrogen. The colourless solution is highly alkalic. The exothermal reactions lasts longer than the reaction of sodium and water, which is directly below lithium in the periodic chart.

What causes lithium batteries to explode? ›

The electrodes are submerged in a liquid called an electrolyte, which allows for the movement of ions and consists of lithium salt and organic solvents. It is these organic solvents which are the leading fire hazard in Li-ion batteries.

How often do lithium batteries catch fire? ›

But in reality, lithium battery fires are rare. According to the tech reporting site CNET, your odds of a lithium battery fire are about 1 in 10 million.

What to do if a lithium battery starts smoking? ›

Unplug it from the power outlet if it is on charge. Avoid inhaling any smoke or fumes. If possible, remove it to an outside area away from any combustible material and away from windows or doorways. Small devices can be dropped into a bucket of clean water to cool if this can be done safely.

Do batteries need oxygen to burn? ›

The lithium-ion battery or Li-ion battery fire does not need any oxygen to burn at all, because it can do that without any oxygen at all. The nature of the fire is recognized as completely chemical, so there is no role of oxygen in it that can start this fire.

Can a lithium-ion battery burn without oxygen? ›

So the answer is; yes, lithium ion cells contain their own oxygen. You cannot smother a cell fire, you just have to get its temperature down. There is no real way to stop it otherwise.

How long can lithium batteries burn? ›

Adjacent cells may become hot enough to enter thermal runaway as well, potentially engulfing the entire battery pack. As mentioned previously, these fires are very hot (~800 deg C), nearly impossible to extinguish, and can burn for hours or even days depending on the number and size of the cells affected.

How should batteries be stored in the workplace? ›

Your Used Lead Acid Batteries should be stored in a bunded area (or device) and undercover to prevent any acid leaking into the environment. Battery acid contains high levels of lead, which is one of the most toxic substances known to humans and the environment.

How do you handle lithium? ›

Reactivity of lithium increases with surface area. Lithium should only be handled by trained personnel wearing proper personal protective equipment. Solid lithium can be handled in open atmosphere at room temperature, either coated in mineral oil or where relative humidity is maintained below 50%.

Are lithium batteries hazardous? ›

Lithium batteries are regulated as a hazardous material under the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 C.F.R., Parts 171-180). The HMR apply to any material DOT determines can pose an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce.

What is the best way to store handle and care for batteries whether at home or on the road? ›

Store batteries in a dry environment at room temperature or slightly cooler. Avoid storing batteries in extreme temperatures that range from hot to below freezing. Storing batteries in cooler temperatures might lengthen the life of some batteries, but this isn't necessary for many household batteries.

What are the hazards and risks in charging the batteries? ›

Gases released when batteries are charging – hydrogen (very flammable and easily ignited) and oxygen (supports combustion) – can result in an explosion. The acid used as an electrolyte in batteries is also very corrosive and can cause injuries if it comes into contact with workers.

What are four main hazards associated with batteries? ›

These are the four main hazards associated with batteries:
  • Acid. The electrolyte in a battery is corrosive and can burn skin or eyes, eat holes in clothing, or even scratch a concrete floor.
  • Flammable gas. Batteries emit hydrogen gas, which is flammable. ...
  • Electrical shock. ...
  • Weight.

How Long Can batteries be stored? ›

Most unused alkaline batteries will last between five and 10 years, while Ni-MH batteries have a shelf life of three to five years of non-use. Lithium-ion batteries, which power devices like cell phones, have a low self-discharge rate and could keep a partial charge for up to four years before being depleted.

What causes battery fires? ›

Once one battery cell goes into thermal runaway, it produces enough heat to cause adjacent battery cells to also go into thermal runaway. This produces a fire that repeatedly flares up as each battery cell in turn ruptures and releases its contents.

What is the main safety concern with lithium-ion batteries? ›

Batteries, such as lithium-ion batteries, can also overheat, leak, burst, and even explode and catch fire, causing serious injuries if they are not properly: installed.

What is battery safety? ›

Due to their energy releasing and chemical properties, batteries must fulfill a series of international, European and national safety requirements during their production, transport, storage, use and end-of-life phase.

What temperature does a lithium-ion battery burn at? ›

Fire ignition establishes that the cathode of the battery can catch fire. The burning lithium creates a metal fire existing at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Celsius/3632 degrees Fahrenheit.

How do you ship a broken lithium-ion battery? ›

Important: No Air Transport for Damaged Lithium Batteries
  1. Each cell and battery must be placed in individual, non-metallic inner packagings that completely enclose the cell/battery;
  2. The inner packagings must be surrounded by non-combustible, non-conductive, and absorbent cushioning material; and.
17 Sept 2019

Which of the following is an important safety precaution when performing battery maintenance? ›

Always wear proper eye, face, and hand protection. Keep all sparks, flames and cigarettes away from the battery. Never try to open a battery with non-removable vents Never try to open a battery with non removable vents. Keep vents tight and level except when servicing electrolyte.

What are the safety items should be there in the battery room? ›

According to OSHA, personal protective equipment for the battery room should include acid-resistant face shields, goggles, gloves, aprons, and boots.

What are the major safety issues related to working with batteries? ›

Batteries can burst or explode due to the build-up of gases through excessive recharging, overcharging or short-circuits, leading to chemical burns or shrapnel injuries. When batteries are connected in series, the increased voltage between the end terminals can be enough to cause electric shock if touched.

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