Navigating the Risks of Lithium-Ion Battery Fires for Safe Transportation

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery fires are a formidable concern due to their capacity to ignite severe and challenging-to-extinguish fires. This article aims to shed light on the risks associated with Li-ion battery fires, while also presenting industry guidelines to ensure their secure transportation.

Navigating the Risks of Lithium-Ion Battery Fires for Safe Transportation

Unpacking Li-ion Battery Fires

Li-ion batteries can undergo a dangerous phenomenon known as thermal runaway, a domino effect leading to a violent discharge of energy and the release of flammable gases. These events can result in large-scale thermal incidents with grave consequences. Importantly, these fires can persist without oxygen, releasing high levels of heat even after being put out.

Industry Guidance for Safe Transportation

The Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS) has recently unveiled comprehensive guidelines for transporting Li-ion batteries in containers. These recommendations, developed in collaboration with industry experts, encompass various factors critical to ensuring safe transportation. They address facets such as battery operations, regulatory compliance, packaging requisites, state of charge, and secure stowage on vessels.

Packaging and Stowage of Cargo

The guidelines underscore the necessity for robust packaging capable of withstanding the rigors of sea transit, minimizing the risk of battery damage and thermal runaway. Adequate stowage aboard ships must strictly adhere to the IMDG code, which includes maintaining safe distances from heat sources, segregating these containers from other hazardous materials, and ensuring the availability of efficient firefighting resources.

Challenges in Fire Detection and Suppression

Detecting and extinguishing Li-ion battery fires can be particularly challenging. Conventional smoke detection devices may exhibit reduced effectiveness, while common fire-suppression agents like CO2 might not deliver adequate cooling effects. Thermal runaway generates substantial heat and combustible gases, necessitating substantial water quantities for successful containment. However, the application of water can introduce stability hazards on ships. Firefighters need to be well-informed about these challenges and adapt their firefighting tactics accordingly.

Regulatory Complexities

Regulations concerning the risks associated with Li-ion batteries are in a state of continual evolution but face hurdles in keeping pace with changing technology and environmental considerations. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is actively working on SOLAS amendments to enhance fire detection and suppression on container vessels. Additional regulations are being explored concerning the fire safety of electric vehicles during shipping and the acceptable state of charge for Li-ion batteries. Resolving the risks linked to damaged or faulty batteries and transportable battery energy storage systems remains an ongoing challenge.

Collaborative Endeavors and Future Prospects

The industry is uniting to gain a better grasp of and mitigate the hazards posed by Li-ion batteries. A recent industry conference jointly hosted by IG, CINS, and TT Club emphasized the significance of knowledge sharing and the implementation of effective risk management measures. Continuous research and technological advancements are expected to pave the way for more robust risk management in the future.


Lithium-ion battery fires present substantial challenges, and it is essential for stakeholders across the supply chain to comprehend and proactively address these risks. Industry guidelines provide invaluable recommendations for safe transport, while regulatory changes are actively pursued to enhance fire detection and suppression measures. Collaboration and sustained efforts are pivotal in ensuring the secure transportation of Li-ion batteries.

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