Standard P&I issues web alert on lithium-ion battery transportation

In the light of recent high-profile incidents in which the lithium-ion batteries used in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 appear to have self-ignited, Standard P&I said in a web advisory yesterday that it had received “a number of queries in respect of best practices concerning the safe carriage of such batteries as well as issues of club cover arising from carriage of the batteries as cargo onboard members’ vessels”.

A possible cause of the self-ignition could be a defective or damaged circuitry within the batteries — causing them to discharge rapidly, overheat, ignite and, possibly, explode.

Standard Club said that “the exposure to members arising from carriage of these batteries is potentially wide and includes claims in respect of damage to cargo and hull by fire, personal injury, deviation, storage and disposal costs, pollution, salvage or even wreck removal.”

Lithium-Ion batteries are classified as Class 9 goods in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, which expressly warns that electrical lithium batteries can cause fires due to an explosive rupture of the body caused by improper construction, or a reaction with contaminants.

Shippers of such batteries are therefore obliged to furnish the vessel with a completed Dangerous Good (DG) cargo declaration.

Each vessel also has a Document of Compliance (DOC) for dangerous cargo which shows where the batteries can be stowed safely

The classification, packaging and stowage of dangerous goods is governed by laws of the flag state, the countries of the load and discharge ports as well as the laws of any country which the vessel enters while in transit.

Standard Club recommends that members carrying such cargo comply with additional precautions:

Container inspection (for sealed and unsealed packages) be carried out to ensure conformance with the instructions (P903, P908, P909, LP903 and LP904) of the IMDG Code.

In the case of used and recalled batteries being shipped, to obtain confirmation in writing from the shippers that the batteries have been discharged to 0% before shipment.

The Club also recommends that members insist that the shipper provides evidence of written consent from the authorities in the place of export, import and transit, in accordance with the provisions of the relevant Basel Convention, before agreeing to carry used or new batteries.

Provided that carriage of the batteries complies with all of the above mentioned requirements imposed by the applicable law(s) and international conventions, Standard said that club cover remains in place. However, a member’s failure to comply with the provisions of the applicable regimes and the guidelines may compromise member’s cover pursuant to Rule 4.8 of the Club Rules: viz “…No claim is recoverable… if the board determines that the carriage, trade, voyage or operation was imprudent, unsafe, unduly hazardous or improper…’.

Additionally, a carrier’s failure to adhere to the requirements of the applicable regimes may be regarded as ‘actual fault and privity’ on the part of the carrier or ‘fault or negligence by its agents or servants’ with the consequence that the member may be disentitled from relying upon its defences at law against a claim by cargo interests.