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U.S. Coast Guard raises high risk to ships of loading electric vehicles with damaged lithium batteries


The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a warning of the extreme risk of loading electric vehicles (EV) with damaged Lithium-Ion onto commercial vessels. Marine Safety Alert 01-23 addresses the issue and offers recommendations to vessels, ports, shippers and regulators.

The alert message comes four months after Hurricane Ian made landfall in South Florida as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds at 150 mph. In the aftermath of the storm, first responders encountered numerous EV fires found to be caused by exposure of the Lithium-Ion batteries to saltwater.

Saltwater exposure can severely harm Lithium-Ion batteries, leading to a chemical reaction that creates a high fire risk.  “Vessels, ports, and shippers should be aware of this extreme risk and avoid loading EVs with damaged Lithium-Ion onto commercial vessels,” the safety alert reads.

A previous safety alert issued last March highlights an incident where improperly discarded Lithium-Ion batteries caught fire in a container while en route to the Port of Virginia, where it was set to be loaded onto a ship. The container’s bill of lading listed the contents as “computer parts,” not lithium batteries.

(Photo by Portuguese Navy released in February 2022 shows Felicity Ace, carrying 4,000 vehicles, burning in the Atlantic ocean off the Azores Islands.)