Battery fire with subsequent gas explosion: Warning about lithium-ion power following ferry fire

What happened

The Norwegian Maritime Authority or Sjofartsdirektoratet has published an alert concerning a small fire that erupted in the battery room onboard the MF Ytterøyningen passenger ferry. Firefighting started and the ferry reached port under her own engine power. Passengers and crew were safely evacuated to land. In the morning of Friday 11 October, there was an explosion below deck, in or adjacent to the battery room.

The Norwegian Maritime Authority “recommends that all shipowners with vessels that have lithium-ion battery installations, carry out a new risk assessment of the dangers connected to possible accumulations of explosive gases during unwanted incidents in the battery systems.

It is extremely important that vessels are not operating without communication between the EMX (Energy management system) and the battery packs, as this may result in a breach in the transfer of important system data to the EMS/bridge. The sequence of events has not been established.

Clarification 18 October

The Norwegian Maritime Authority further wants to clarify the following items:

All shipowners using a battery system should carry out a risk assessment based on the recommendations of the updated safety message.

  • The risk assessment should cover the following:
    • the assessment should identify potential emergency shipboard situations, e.g. fire, flooding, collision, etc.;
    • subsequently, the shipowner should establish procedures to respond to these events and establish programmes for drills and exercises to prepare for emergency situations.

This is in line with the requirements of the ISM code and is the shipowner’s responsibility.

The incident with the Ytterøyningen is still under investigation, and the cause has not been identified yet. There is nothing that indicates any issues regarding the above-mentioned risk assessment of this specific incident.”