Lithium Ion Batteries – Friend or Foe?

Since 1985 Lithium-Ion Batteries have slowly been marching into every inch of our lives. We have managed to find uses both commercially and personally for these darlings of the storage world. Whilst they remain at the top of the food chain they will be around for the foreseeable future, so we need to appreciate exactly what we have invited into our daily work and personal lives.

Lithium is the third lightest element on the periodic table behind Helium and Hydrogen and with its high-voltage capacity, it is a perfect method of mobile energy storage. Alongside the storage capacity,  batteries made from Lithium perform well when it comes to power-to-weight ratio, and their ability to be recharged multiple times without loss of capacity (memory). On the downside, when mistreated or manufactured poorly these batteries can present a highly volatile concoction of flammable vapour and contents that can burn close to 1000 degrees, potentially for several hours at a time.

Unlike the other potentially flammable or hazardous materials we have within our industry, many of us seem to have let these guys slip in under the radar. We frequently see dive equipment and water-sports and other appliances (Seabobs, e-foils, Segways) with large batteries being stored and recharged in areas poorly equipped to deal with an incident. Added to this, as an industry, very little consideration has been given to controlling and dealing with these appliances should things go wrong.

If you have these batteries on board think about the following:

  1. Do we have the correct systems in place to alert us to a potential incident?
  2. Is our reporting system fit for purpose: to protect as opposed to merely report that the unit is not working correctly?
  3. Does our SOP consider the special properties of a Lithium battery fire?
  4. Has our stowage solution/location been risk-assessed for remedies in an emergency situation?
  5. Are we aware of the devices being carried on board by guests / Crew?
  6. What countermeasures do we have on hand to deploy should an incident occur?

While most batteries are well constructed and have built-in safeguards to protect us, the sheer number of batteries currently in circulation suggests that on probability alone, any one of our vessels could be due an incident.

Think about it: review your SOP and maybe get some guidance.  Have a drill to protect against an incident.  We currently drill for fire, man overboard and abandonment – very few of which ever actually happen to anyone in our industry (thankfully) but it makes sense to be ready and prepared just in case.

If you would like any further information on how to best protect your vessel, guests and crew, get in touch with Rob De Silva, Director at Dark Blu Inc., available for all training and development needs.