ClassNK, one of the world’s leading ship classification societies, has published the “Guidelines for the Safe Transport of Electric Vehicles” and the “List of Fire Safety Measures for the Maritime Transport of Electric Vehicles” to improve safety in the maritime transport of electric vehicles.
The number of electric vehicles transported by ships has increased in recent years. However, there are concerns about lithium-ion battery combustion due to difficulties in extinguishing fires and the risk of re-ignition. While the IMO and flag states were formulating safety regulations, shipping companies operating Ro-Ro vessels were proactively addressing firefighting measures prior to the implementation of these regulations.
ClassNK’s Guidance Aims to Manage Risks
The guidance and list published by ClassNK describes the characteristics of electric vehicle fires and provides guidance on how to respond. It also sets out the requirements for class notations for ships equipped with additional fire-fighting measures for the transportation of electric vehicles.
The guidelines define four key measures for early detection, suppression, prevention of fire spread and extinguishment. By detailing the characteristics of electric vehicle fires and how to respond, ClassNK’s guidance aims to help ship operators better manage these risks.
To reduce the risk of fire from electric vehicles, ships should be equipped with early detection equipment such as fire detectors and alarm systems.
When a fire breaks out, it must be quickly and effectively suppressed. Various extinguishing agents such as water, foam, gas or powder can be used for this purpose.
Prevention of Fire Spread:
Physical barriers such as fire partitions and watertight doors should be used to prevent the spread of fire on board.
The fire must be completely extinguished. For this purpose, fire extinguishing agents as well as manual intervention by fire-fighters may be required.
The list details around 40 measures for early detection, suppression, prevention of fire spread and extinguishing. These measures take into account the characteristics of electric vehicle fires. For example, it provides specific recommendations on the choice of extinguishing agents, taking into account that lithium-ion batteries are difficult to extinguish.
Number of Electric Vehicles Increasing
In recent years there has been an increase in the number of electric vehicles being transported as cargo on ships. This is largely attributed to the increase in electric vehicle ownership worldwide over the last decade. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the number of electric vehicles registered has been increasing exponentially since the end of 2011 and the IEA expects this exponential increase to continue for at least the next decade. As there are currently no international regulations on safety measures for the maritime transport of electric vehicles, it seems imperative to develop some regulations as soon as possible.