Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

The risks faced by seafarers in electric vehicle fires

Photo: SMT shipfire-SMT.jpg
We’ve all seen the images of serious car carrier fires in recent years, but electric automobile lithium-ion batteries risk even more ferocious fires.

The concern over fires from electric automobiles, either as cargo or onboard ferries was highlighted by Tony In’t Hout, Director at Stream Marine Training (SMT).

In’t Hout warned of the dangers faced by the crew on vessels from lithium-ion battery fires that they are neither trained nor equipped to deal with.

“In the maritime sector, the issue of electric vehicle batteries being highly flammable when they overheat is often overlooked,” he said. “People don’t realise how dangerous lithium-ion batteries are, so the shipping sector needs courses on how to fight fires – especially as we’ve seen quite a few blazes on ships in recent years caused by vehicle batteries.”

As ships carry more electric vehicles and also switch to new fuels such as methanol and ammonia crew face will face new risks in firefighting situations and SMT is rolling out a two-day course to train seafarers in dealing with the dangers they could face.

“An aluminium car battery holds eight times the power of a normal one, so it can fuel itself if it catches fire,” said In’t Hout. “Anyone working on ships needs to understand how to deal with that type of situation, which we cover on day two of the course.”

The second day of the course includes practical firefighting sessions at SMT’s training facility in Glasgow, Scotland. 
“Another example is if you have a ferry with a hydrogen truck, an aluminium-battery car and an LNG truck next to each other when a fire breaks out – what should the crew do in that scenario? Most seafarers won’t know because they haven’t had the relevant training.”