Lithium-ion batteries linked to fire in superyacht’s garage says new report

Lithium-ion batteries linked to fire of 'MY Kanga'
Lithium-ion batteries linked to fire of ‘MY Kanga’

Transport Malta’s Marine Safety Investigation Unit (MSIU) has published an investigation report on a garage fire onboard the supertyacht ‘MY Kanga’ while at anchor off Croatia, in September 2018. The investigation concluded that in all probability, the seat of the fire was the Lithium-ion batteries. Transport Malta recommended a review of the Commercial Yacht Code of 2015 on the storage of Li-ion batteries, as well as closed ventilation systems.

MY Kanga was at anchor in the coastal area of Dubrovnik, Croatia, on the morning of 7 September 2018. While the first officer was on the bridge, the fire panel gave off an alarm, indicating a fire in the garage. He immediately went down to inspect and was overwhelmed by the presence of heat and smoke in the garage. The main fire alarm was triggered and the first officer called all crew and passengers to muster at the bow. An attempt was made to fight the fire; however, it was unsuccessful. The fire rose towards the upper decks and subsequently grew out of control.

The master retrieved all the documents and passports of the crew and shut off all watertight compartments from the bridge.

He then gave the ‘abandon ship’ order, called off the boundary cooling, and ordered the chief engineer to shut off all fuel valves and the generator from the fire locker located on the starboard side of the yacht, before leaving the bridge.

Following a final head count, the forward tender was launched, with the child inside. All crew members and passengers then jumped into the water off the bow of the yacht to board the tender. No injuries were reported.

Shortly after, further explosions were heard, however, by this time, the tender along with all crew and passengers, was at a safe distance from the burning yacht.

Conclusions
– The crew did not seem fully aware of the hazards associated with the Lithium-ion batteries, which resulted in an inadequate assessment of the risks involved with these batteries, even after three of the four batteries were found leaking.
– The garage space of Kanga was not considered a service space, within the meaning defined by the Commercial Yacht Code, 2015 and therefore, additional measures to prevent the spread of, as well as to extinguish, the fire were not deemed necessary to be provided in the garage.
– Unlike SOLAS II-2/5.2.1.1, which requires the main inlets and outlets of all ventilation systems to be capable of being closed from the outside of the spaces being ventilated, as well as the means of closing to be easily accessible, the Commercial Yacht Code, 2015 placed this requirement only for ventilation ducts/fans of the machinery spaces and galleys.
– Only Section 4.2.8.1 of the Commercial Yacht Code, 2015 required ventilators to be provided with permanently attached means of weathertight closure, which were to be easily accessible. The Code did not address the means of closure from the point of view of control of air supply, which could pose a potential for fire growth.
– The only means to detect a fire in the garage were through a photoelectric smoke detector and a fire patrol.
– There was no gas detector fitted in the garage, which could have provided an early warning of the situation in the garage; probably even before the activation of the fire alarm triggered by the smoke detector.

Recommendations

Following investigation, Transport Malta has recommended:
Floating Life International S.A. to:
– review the procedures on the frequency of, and intervals between fire patrols onboard;
– where applicable, consider additional means of surveillance of various spaces onboard, to ensure early warning of a fire;

The flag State Administration to:
– either revise Information Notice 20, or issue a new Information Notice to address the potential hazards of Li-ion batteries;
– review the Commercial Yacht Code, 2015 to address the storage of Li-ion batteries and equipment powered by Li-ion batteries;
– review the Commercial Yacht Code, 2015 to address the means of closing ventilation systems on board yachts for fire protection;
– review the ‘Commercial Yacht Initial Inspection Report’ and the ‘Commercial Yacht Survey Report’ to take into account the equipment stored / intended to be stored in a garage space and which may necessitate additional safety and fire-protection measures.

Download and read the report in full: Transport-Malta-MY-KANGA-Fire

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