Marine industry looks to tackle lithium-ion battery challenge amid containerisation safety fears

The maritime industry has begun the process of tackling the growing risks in the transportation of lithium-ion batteries by sea.

The Cargo Incident Notification System Network (CINS) has collaborated with a range of maritime and insurance  organisations to create new guidelines for the transport of  lithium-ion batteries in containers in an effort to prevent the increasing risks that the transport of lithium-ion batteries by sea creates.

The risks the batteries pose in terms of exploding, initiating fires and emitting toxic gases have become a growing concern and the CINS sis it was now time to act.

“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,” said Dirk Van de Velde, deputy chair of CINS and a board member of the association of cargo handlers, ICHCA. “Our Guidelines will create greater awareness of the possibilities of the damaging and life-threatening incidents, which have already occurred, and instil more urgent motivation to act before more catastrophic disasters result.”

CINS said 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 in the new guidelines including, classification and regulation, container packing, landside storage, stowage onboard ships, incident detection and fire suppression, and loss prevention and risk mitigation.

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 (101.A) 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. Stakeholders in the supply chain are encouraged to implement the advice according to their specific operations and requirements but to always keep safety of life as their primary consideration.

“As our experience of transporting lithium-ion batteries widens and the technology surrounding their chemical composition, production and application rapidly evolves, risk controls and loss prevention measures need to keep pace.  The work encapsulated in these Guidelines will, of necessity, continue and be undertaken in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders to increase our knowledge and understanding of the risks posed by carriage of lithium – ion batteries in containers by sea, “ explained Mark Smith, loss prevention executive NorthStandard, and the International Group of P&I Clubs’ representative on the CINS lithium-ion batteries working group.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox, risk management director at freight transport insurer TT Club added: “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.”