With lithium-ion batteries becoming increasingly popular due to the weight and power advantages, an increase in the number and volume of shipments is certain. Coupled with the fact that they are mass produced in the Far East and so have to be transported around the world, a TT Club report cautions that they should be stored carefully.
The batteries, which are packing greater energy density every year, can self-heat with prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The Club’s report warns of potential “thermal runaway”, when one battery ruptured by overheating causes those around it to do the same.
“There have already been some fires on container ships involving lithium-ion batteries in modest quantities,” says the report. It also states that limiting the size of shipments might be “prudent…until industry experience builds.”
While there is currently no restriction on where this type of cargo can be stored, recommended good practice at sea is that they be carried on deck, away from accommodation and overstowed so they are out of the sun.
Similar precautions should be taken with other goods with the potential to self-heat, including: activated carbon, calcium hypochlorite, coal and direct reduced iron.
The report concludes by suggesting to shippers and shipping lines, “It is perhaps increasingly important not just to know what cargo is being handled but its specific characteristics – and impacts on the totality of the operation under your control or responsibility.”