Transport of lithium-ion batteries – a continuous threat

Smoking battery Lithium battery

Insurers TT Club and UK P&I Club have teamed up with scientific consultants, Brookes Bell, and issued a whitepaper highlighting the continuing safety threat created by the transportation of lithium-ion batteries.

The publishing of a whitepaper by insurance providers TT Club along with its fellow Thomas Miller managed business, UK P&I Club, and technical and scientific consultancy, Brookes Bell brings greater awareness of the dangers inherent in the transport of lithium-ion batteries, particularly by sea. The increased demand for ‘green power’ for a wide range of portable devices such as mobile phones, mobility aids and recreation, manufacturing and power storage, through to larger products, such as electric vehicles will undoubtedly result in the production and transport of these batteries rising exponentially in the coming years.

The whitepaper outlines many of the numerous challenges facing the transport industry and raises awareness of the potentially catastrophic situation that can be caused by battery failure, thus in part correcting the widely held perception in the maritime community that risks in the supply chain of such products are relatively small.

Commenting on the need for rapid recognition of the risks, Peregrine Storrs-Fox, TT’s Risk Management Director said, “Recently, serious and sometimes catastrophic incidents involving lithium-ion batteries have become more commonplace, with fires reported in all modes of transport – ocean, air and land -- as well as in warehouses and where such consignments are at rest. 

As Loss Prevention Director of the UK P&I Club, Stuart Edmonston is no stranger to the damage ship fires can cause, “The consequences of battery failure and the resultant thermal runaway must be clearly understood and the correct procedures for handling them adhered to throughout their lifespan.  The dangers can exist no matter the status of the battery; charged, semi-charged, used, second-hand or scrap, and whether present in devices and vehicles or packaged separately.”

The topics covered in this comprehensive whitepaper include details of the background science behind lithium-ion batteries, the dangers associated with transporting them and why they arise, such as insufficient testing and incorrect declaration. The paper also provides a review of current dangerous goods (DG) regulatory provisions, focusing on the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, with recommendations for change or further work. The final section of the paper discusses the current state of the firefighting provision and changes that could be implemented.

However, the authors don’t limit their risk prevention advice to technology aimed at extinguishing fires once begun but also put forward guidelines to help pre-empt dangerous incidents by correct classification and declaration, safe and effective packaging, mandatory markings and labelling, uniformity of regulations regarding testing and suitable storage environments while batteries are awaiting transport.

Speaking of the growing risk, Karwei So, Managing Scientist at Brookes Bell concludes, “While increased industry awareness is crucial and technology to monitor and restrict fires is advancing, the increased capacities of batteries and the expected rise in trade volumes means regulations are potentially not fit for purpose, having been slow to catch up.” 

The joint paper outlines initial ‘calls to action’ in a number of respects, impacting not simply those tasked with moving this commodity and their regulators, but most importantly any industries involved in manufacturing or using this increasingly crucial power source, who enter the goods or related products into the freight supply chain.”

The full text of the ‘Lithium batteries whitepaper’ can be downloaded free of charge below: 



About Brookes Bell

Founded in 1903, Brookes Bell is a leading multi-disciplinary technical and scientific consultancy serving the marine and energy sectors. They investigate, troubleshoot and advise on a broad range of marine and energy matters and enjoy a reputation for being the ‘go-to’ firm for casualty investigation, forensic analysis, technical dispute resolution and expert witness work. Working across the UK, Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas, Brookes Bell has a global presence allowing them to provide their expert services wherever clients need them to be. Alongside Brookes Bell’s investigative and expert witness services they have a state-of-the-art laboratory, The Lab at Brookes Bell, providing the marine, energy, industrial and manufacturing industries with access to world-class forensic analysis and investigative services.

Media Contact:

Andrew Yarwood
Brookes Bell
Tel: +44 151 236 0083

About TT Club

TT Club is the established market-leading independent provider of mutual insurance and related risk management services to the international transport and logistics industry. TT Club’s primary objective is to help make the industry safer and more secure. Founded in 1968, the Club has more than 1100 Members, spanning container owners and operators, ports and terminals, and logistics companies, working across maritime, road, rail, and air. TT Club is renowned for its high-quality service, in-depth industry knowledge and enduring Member loyalty. It retains more than 97% of its Members with a third of its entire membership having chosen to insure with the Club for 20 years or more.

Media Contact:

Maria Udy
Portcare International
Tel: + 44 (0) 7979 868539

About UK P&I Club

UK P&I Club is a leading provider of P&I insurance and other services to the international shipping community. Established in 1865, the UK P&I Club insures over 240 million tonnes of owned and chartered shipping through its international offices and claims network. ‘A (Stable)’ rated by Standard & Poor’s with free reserves and hybrid capital of $597m, the UK P&I Club is renowned for its specialist skills and expertise that ensure ‘best in class’ underwriting, claims handling and loss prevention services.

Media Contact:

Jon Atkins/Cameron Cote
Four Communications
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3697 4200
E-mail: UKP&

Staff Author

TT Club