The Safety Investigation Report on a fire last September that resulted in the total loss of 35.2 metre Tansu motor yacht Siempre has highlighted the hazards of handling and disposing of Lithium-ion batteries.
The investigation conducted by the Malta Marine Safety Investigation Unit (MSIU) confirms that fire broke out on the open aft deck in the early hours of September 6, while Siempre was moored at the Port of Olbia in Italy.
The crew members were woken by the fire alarm but as the blaze grew out of control within minutes they “jumped into the water from the bow and were rescued by the crew members of a neighbouring yacht,” the report detailed.
The report could not determine the cause of the fire but “believes that it had either originated from a Lithium-ion battery stored in the vicinity, or due to a fault in the power socket of the water scooter, which was on the open aft deck."
The report also cited that the Lithium-ion batteries – which were being utilised in water toys including hydrofoil surfboard and electric surfboards – could have been a factor in why the fire spread so quickly. Evidence given by crew members on a neighbouring yacht detailed the rapid spread of the fire with flames reaching a height of 2.5 metres within seconds.
“The presence of several Li-ion batteries (the removable ones as well as those integrated within the leisure equipment) in proximity to the fire, by virtue of their inherent hazards, would have allowed the fire to intensify and spread even more rapidly,” the report stated. “Once the fire had intensified and spread to the leisure equipment, fitted with combustible components, it did not take long for the various flammable fittings, fabrics, wood panels, etc, to contribute to the fire spread through most of the yacht and before the fire could be brought under control.”
The MSIU said the Siempre’s crew members did possess knowledge of Li-ion batteries as they tried to stow a dead battery safely, following advice received from manufacturers, and had ensured that recharging of the batteries and leisure equipment was always monitored.
However, citing that the disposal of the dead battery had not been completed for more than two months since the replacement battery was received on board, the MSIU noted that the crew might not have been “fully aware” of the hazards.
As a result of the report, two recommendations have been put forward by MSIU. The first is a formal notification to all crew members serving with the company, advising them of the hazards posed by Li-ion batteries, and the second is a guide to crew members on the proper handling and disposal of faulty or dead Li-ion batteries.