The maritime industry, particularly the luxury yacht sector, has been grappling with the challenges posed by lithium-ion batteries. The increased adoption of these batteries, due to their high energy density, longer lifespan, the quest for eco-friendliness has also escalated the risks of onboard fires. This batteries are especially used for powering small electric crafts on yachts. This choice, however, sails along with the risk of fires, a scenario the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) aims to mitigate with its newly released guidelines. This move follows a concerning spate of yacht fires, with 16 total losses reported between August 2021 and 2022.
The MCA’s MGN 681 (M) guideline is a beacon for the industry, focusing on safe handling, storage, and charging practices for lithium-ion batteries aboard yachts. It emphasizes continuous risk assessment and review of safety measures, underscoring the distinct fire risks posed by lithium-ion batteries compared to their petrol-powered counterparts.
Lithium-ion batteries are a powerful and efficient energy storage solution used in a wide range of applications including smartphones, laptops, electric vehicles, and even large-scale grid storage. However, their safety is contingent on various factors, including design, quality, handling, and the environment in which they are used. Here are some considerations regarding their safety:
- Design and Manufacturing Quality:
- High-quality design and manufacturing standards are crucial for ensuring the safety of lithium-ion batteries. Proper design can prevent internal short circuits and provide mechanisms for venting gases or shutting down the battery if it overheats.
- Protection Circuits:
- Most lithium-ion batteries have built-in protection circuits to prevent overcharging, over-discharging, and excessive current flow, all of which can cause the battery to fail or catch fire.
- Thermal Runaway:
- A significant safety concern with lithium-ion batteries is thermal runaway, a self-perpetuating condition where a rise in temperature can lead to a chain reaction, causing a fire or explosion.
- Physical Damage:
- Physical damage, like punctures or crushing, can cause internal short circuits, leading to thermal runaway.
- Using the correct charger and adhering to manufacturer guidelines for charging is vital. Improper charging can cause overheating, which in turn can lead to fire or explosion.
- Storage Conditions:
- Storing lithium-ion batteries in a cool, dry environment and away from flammable materials is advisable to minimize risks.
- Disposing of lithium-ion batteries properly is crucial to prevent the risks associated with punctures or exposure to heat.
- Regulatory Standards and Certification:
- Batteries that meet rigorous testing and certification standards are generally safer. For instance, the certification of the RAMBSS by DMT TÜV Nord for safe storage of lithium-ion batteries on yachts is an example of a safety certification in a specific use case.
- User Awareness and Education:
- Users should be aware of the best practices for handling, charging, storing, and disposing of lithium-ion batteries to ensure safety.
The journey towards safe lithium-ion battery usage at sea is further buoyed by innovative solutions like the RAMBSS system for safety storage of lithium battery. These safety harbor, tailored for superyachts, offer containment solutions for uncontrollable lithium fires.
Lithium-ion battery fires pose unique challenges as they can self-sustain without oxygen and continue to generate heat post-extinction, risking re-ignition. Thus, traditional firefighting systems that rely on oxygen deprivation prove less effective against them.
The MCA’s guidelines and the emerging safety solutions reflect a proactive maritime industry committed to navigating the lithium-ion battery fire risks. By fostering a safety culture, enhancing crew awareness, and deploying innovative containment solutions, the maritime sector is ensuring that the waters remain safe for the yachts and their occupants. With the right measures in place, the industry is poised to sail smoothly towards a greener and safer maritime domain.
The RAMBSS (RAclan Maritime Battery Safety System) is certified by DMT TÜV Nord, which is a safety certification awarded by a reputable organization, indicating that the RAMBSS has undergone testing to ensure it meets specific safety standards. The certification covers modules designed for water toys batteries, such as those used in Seabobs. The system is created to safely store lithium-ion batteries up to 6.0 kWh. It incorporates features like an exhaust system with a multi-layer filter, an external water supply for flooding the modules, a multi-nozzle extinguishing and cooling system, internal ventilation, and an explosion/fireproof/pressure-absorbing enclosure. These modules also come with a touchscreen monitor for ease of use and are WiFi-enabled, making them waterproof and tech-savvy solutions for managing battery safety on yachts and similar vessels.
The certification from DMT TÜV Nord enhances the credibility and trustworthiness of the RAMBSS, ensuring it adheres to a recognized standard of safety. Such certifications are crucial in the maritime industry, especially when it comes to managing the risks associated with lithium-ion batteries, known for their potential to cause thermal runaway and subsequent fires if not handled or stored properly.