US Coast Guard recommends shippers avoid loading EVs with saltwater-damaged Li-ion batteries onto vessels
The US Coast Guard has issued a Marine Safety Alert (01-23) recommending that shippers avoid loading EVs with Li-ion batteries that have been damaged by saltwater. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), residual salt within the battery or battery components can form conductive “bridges” that can lead to short circuit and self-heating of the battery, resulting in fires. The time frame in which a damaged battery can ignite has been observed to vary widely, from days to weeks.
In the storm surge in Florida that accompanied Hurricane Ian in September 2022, many vehicles were submerged at least partially in salt water. In the following weeks, at least 12 EV fires were reported in Collier and Lee Counties. Review of vehicle registration found that there are more than 7,000 EVs in Lee County, Florida, with the potential for damage.
The Coast Guard strongly recommends that vessels, ports, shippers and regulators:
Conduct a comprehensive review of the vehicle shipping requirements found in both the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR) and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. All lithium batteries are hazardous materials regulated by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). As such, they are required to comply with the Lithium Battery Guide for Shippers.
Conduct review of additional requirements for shipping damaged lithium ion batteries located in the PHMSA Safety Advisory Notice for the Disposal and Recycling of Lithium Batteries in Commercial Transportation. Due to the large size of EV batteries, the packaging requirements to comply with damaged shipment regulations are inadequate. As such, IMDG special provision 376 specifically requires approval from the competent authority (PHMSA or US Coast Guard) prior to shipment of damaged lithium batteries.
Remain vigilant and ensure damaged lithium-ion vehicle batteries are not loaded onto vessels for shipment, placed within port facilities, or enclosed in containers.