Guidelines seek to prevent fire and other risks, ensuring a safer supply chain in the future

Industry bodies have come together to publish new guidelines intended to prevent the increasing risks that the transport of lithium-ion batteries by sea creates, providing suggestions for identifying such risks and thereby helping to ensure a safer supply chain in the future. 

Peregrine Storrs-Fox, Risk Management director at freight transport insurer TT Club concludes, “As the pressure on all forms of economic activity for decarbonisation increases, the use of these batteries will inevitably escalate at rates we have previously not experienced. 

“Air transport has been heavily restricted already and it is clear that surface modes will be called upon to transport these goods. As an adaptable unit, the container will remain a focal point for safe transport, including for EVs alongside other vehicle carriers. 

”The intermodal nature of containers means more actors other than shipping lines, be they manufacturers, packers, forwarders, logistics operators, warehouses and cargo handlers must all be cognisant of the safety issues we are addressing and play their part in ensuring the risks are properly managed.”

Preventing thermal runaway 

Together with its partners, the Cargo Incident Notification System Network (CINS) has compiled a publication covering the properties of these batteries and their potential to explode, initiate fires and emit toxic gases.

“We strongly urge all stakeholders in the production, supply, transport, handling and sale of lithium-ion batteries whether as individual components or integrated into an electronic device, vehicle or other product to recognise their responsibilities in maximising safety when in transit,” commented Dirk Van de Velde, deputy chair of CINS and a board member of the association of cargo handlers, ICHCA.

“Our Guidelines will create greater awareness of the possibilities of the damaging and life-threatening incidents, which have already occurred, and instil more urgent motivation to act before more catastrophic disasters result.”

Health & safety first

Stakeholders in the supply chain are encouraged to implement the advice according to their specific operations and requirements but to always keep safety of life as their primary consideration. 

“As our experience of transporting lithium-ion batteries widens and the technology surrounding their chemical composition, production and application rapidly evolves, risk controls and loss prevention measures need to keep pace,” said Mark Smith, loss prevention executive NorthStandard, International Group of P&I Clubs’ representative on the CINS LiB WG.

”The work encapsulated in these Guidelines will, of necessity, continue and be undertaken in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders to increase our knowledge and understanding of the risks posed by carriage of lithium – ion batteries in containers by sea.”