The advice from the US Coast Guard is to avoid loading electric vehicles with saltwater damage on ships

The stricken Felicity Ace photographed before sinking. Photo credit: Portuguese Navy
The stricken Felicity Ace photographed before sinking. Photo credit: Portuguese Navy

The US Coast Guard (USCG) has issued a warning to the shipping industry about the extreme risk of loading electric vehicles (EV) with damaged lithium-ion batteries onto commercial vessels.

Marine Safety Alert 01-23, published by USCG, addresses the issue and provides recommendations to vessels, ports, shippers and regulators. The safety alert comes just a few months after Hurricane Ian made landfall in South Florida. In the aftermath of the intense and destructive storm, first responders encountered numerous EV fires where investigations have subsequently determined were caused by exposure of the lithium-ion batteries to saltwater.

Exposure to saltwater can severely harm lithium-ion batteries, leading to a chemical reaction that creates a high fire risk. Records show there are over 7,000 EVs in Lee County, Florida alone with the potential for damage.

“Vessels, ports, and shippers should be aware of this extreme risk and avoid loading EVs with damaged lithium-ion batteries onto commercial vessels,” the safety alert reads. The carriage of electric vehicles containing lithium-ion batteries presents new challenges to maritime transportation and firefighting.

In this latest safety alert, USCG strongly recommends that vessels, ports, shippers and regulators:
– Conduct a comprehensive review of the vehicle shipping requirements found in both the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR) and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. All lithium batteries are hazardous materials regulated by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). As such, they are required to comply with the Lithium Battery Guide for Shippers.
– Conduct reviews of additional requirements for shipping damaged lithium-ion batteries located in the PHMSA Safety Advisory Notice for the Disposal and Recycling of Lithium Batteries in Commercial Transportation. Due to the large size of EV batteries, the packaging requirements to comply with damaged shipment regulations are inadequate. As such, IMDG special provision 376 specifically requires approval from the competent authority (PHMSA or US Coast Guard) prior to shipment of damaged lithium batteries.
– Remain vigilant and ensure damaged lithium-ion vehicle batteries are not loaded onto vessels for shipment, placed within port facilities, or enclosed in containers.

Instagram Posts from the IIMS @iimsmarine