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Maritime Industry Grapples with Lithium-Ion Battery Fire Hazards

Maritime Industry Grapples with Lithium-Ion Battery Fire Hazards
Michał Rogucki 10 April 2024

Summary: The maritime industry is adapting to the risks that come with the increased transport of lithium-ion batteries, vital for the growing electric vehicle market. Preventative strategies and heightened safety protocols are being deployed to protect seafarers and vessels from the unique dangers posed by these energy sources.

The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and other lithium-ion battery-powered devices is a monumental step toward reducing reliance on fossil fuels. However, this shift introduces significant new risks, particularly for the maritime sector responsible for transporting these batteries. The occurrence aboard the Genius Star XI has highlighted this critical issue.

The challenge is the inherent fire risk associated with lithium-ion batteries, which becomes problematic in maritime settings due to limited access to external firefighting resources. Incidents have underscored the potential for these batteries to catch fire by a process called thermal runaway, where high temperatures can lead to an uncontrollable self-heating condition that is difficult to extinguish.

The growth of EVs is accelerating, evidenced by a recent International Energy Agency report citing over 10 million electric car sales in 2022. This boom in sales is leading to a proportional increase in lithium-ion battery shipments, complicating the issue for the seafaring industry. Major insurers like Allianz have taken note, pointing out that these types of fires are now a leading cause of expensive marine claims.

To address these concerns, Chubb initiated a Lloyd’s of London consortium committed to providing coverage for the transport and storage of lithium-ion batteries, alleviating some financial risk. However, the fundamental issue of safety remains paramount.

The insight drawn from incidents like the Genius Star XI puts pressure on the sector to educate and train seafarers in handling and mitigating lithium-ion battery fires. Moreover, operators are now taking additional steps such as limiting the state of charge in transported batteries to 30% to lower the risk. These measures mark the beginning of an industry-wide attempt to better manage the hazards associated with a more sustainable, electrically driven future.

Maritime Industry Adjustments for Lithium-Ion Battery Transport

The maritime industry is crucial in sustaining the global supply chain, more so with the proliferation of lithium-ion batteries. As the demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and electronics soar, so does the need for safe and efficient battery transportation methods. This industry is expected to see significant growth, driven by the advancement in renewable energy sectors and the push for electrification globally. According to a report by Fortune Business Insights, the global lithium-ion battery market size was USD 36.90 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 129.34 billion by 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 18.0% during the forecast period.

This booming market is, however, not without its complications. Lithium-ion batteries pose a considerable risk in the form of thermal runaway, causing concern among maritime insurance companies and shipping operators. Addressing these combustibility issues has become a priority within the industry, leading to the implementation of innovative safety protocols and the necessary training for seafarers. For instance, classification societies and shipping companies are developing robust criteria for battery stowage and handling on vessels, and investing in advanced detection systems to enhance onboard safety.

Another initiative seen within the industry is the creation of specialized carriers for lithium-ion batteries which includes ships that are designed with enhanced firefighting capabilities, and containment systems to mitigate the potential impact of a fire. These measures contribute to an overarching industry effort to curb the possibility of accidents, ultimately safeguarding lives, cargo, and vessels.

For the most up-to-date information on advancements in maritime safety and regulations, you can visit the International Maritime Organization’s website at

As the maritime sector evolves, it could face challenges such as adapting existing ships to properly handle lithium-ion batteries, potentially tight regulatory environments, and the continuous push for further innovations in battery safety technology. Despite these challenges, the industry demonstrates a strong commitment to finding solutions that facilitate the continued growth of the electric vehicle market and other industries relying on these power sources, while ensuring the safety of seafarers around the globe.