On November 13, 2022, about 1530 local time, a fire started on the bridge of the oil tanker
while the vessel was docked at the Genesis Port Allen Terminal in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Fire teams from the vessel’s crew extinguished the fire about 1550. There were no injuries, and no pollution was reported. The damage to the vessel was estimated at $3 million.
We determined that the probable cause of the fire on the bridge of the S-Trust was the thermal runaway of one of the cells in a lithium-ion battery for a UHF handheld radio.
Lithium-Ion Battery Fires
A lithium-ion battery cell, if damaged, shorted, overheated, defective, or overcharged, can spontaneously experience a thermal runaway, a chemical reaction that can cause the cell to ignite and explode. A cell that has exploded can be propelled from its initial position within a battery. Due to the potential for rapid expansion of a lithium ion battery fire, detection, containment, and extinguishment are essential to prevent damage to a vessel.
Crews can help prevent thermal runaways and ensuing fires by doing the following:
- follow manufacturers’ instructions for the care and maintenance of lithium-ion batteries,
- properly dispose of damaged batteries,
- avoid unsupervised charging, and
- keep batteries and chargers away from heat sources and flammable materials.
Additionally, companies should ensure that lithium-ion batteries and devices that use lithium-ion batteries are certified by Underwriters Laboratory or another recognized organization.
Should a lithium-ion battery fire occur, crews can attempt to extinguish the fire with water, foam, CO2, or other dry chemical or powdered agents. However, if the battery fire cannot be extinguished, personnel should attempt to allow the pack to burn in a controlled manner; this includes watching for nearby cells that may also experience thermal runaway and extinguishing other combustibles that may catch on fire.