SAFE AND SECURE
Ben Parnwell from LiVault looks at the new fire safety guidance notices and the necessary need for dedicated fireproof containers
The recently published MGN 681 (M) is creating waves in the marine industry. This UK-MCA protocol is a direct response to the danger caused by the increase in both the number and capacity of Lithium-ion (LI-ion) batteries onboard. Other flag authorities have stated that this guidance will be incorporated into future revisions of their Yacht Codes and strongly recommend that the guidance contained in MGN 681 (M) is followed on all yachts carrying small electric powered craft immediately.
The guidance contained in MGN 681(M) is intended to outline best practices related to design, equipment and outfit of dedicated spaces onboard, and to increase safety for handling, charging and stowage of LI-ion batteries and craft.
Industry groups estimate 16 total losses due to fire between August 2021 and August 2022 of which around half have not yet had their cause established; one potential explanation for the unexplained fires could be lithium-ion battery fires.
LI-ion battery fires can be self-sufficient and continue to burn without access to additional oxygen. They may also continue to generate high amounts of heat following fire-extinction and are at risk of re-ignition. Thermal runaway is the event most associated with catastrophic LI-ion battery fire. This feedback loop causes exponential heat rises and potential fire-spread or explosion. Once thermal runaway has begun, the battery fire will rapidly increase in intensity and become very difficult to suppress.
This presents a real danger for crew who will need to deal with a fast evolving 800C fire as well as a highly toxic smoke-gas mixture containing hydrofluoric acid. This acid can enter the body through the skin, causing no pain, but even small amounts are lethal. In addition, cells can explode out of the battery at speeds of up to 300m/ sec – the speed of a bullet.
These fire facts put the current onboard firefighting protocols and their associated risks in real focus. Many yachts today still have a “throw it over the side” approach.
This involves crew members donning firefighting suits and respirators before using a LI-ion fire blanket to physically pick up and discard the burning and explosive items into the sea. The speed of these fires alone could invalidate these measures completely and it would be a massive risk to life and limb for any crew involved, not to mention the environmental impact.
So, what is the answer to this burning issue? The answer as given by MGN 681 (M) is the installation onboard of dedicated, fireproof containers for storage and charging of LI- ion batteries.
LiVault (www.livault.com) has been created in partnership with the leading manufacturer of safety solutions for charging and storing LI-ion batteries with the aim of providing technical advice and solutions for yachts of all sizes to manage the risk presented by these fires.
Currently, the only certified solution on the market is the RACLAN active box. It was developed for the home and commercial markets and is rated up to 1.75kWh. This box has proven the patented technologies within and gained DMT certification.
2024 will see the launch of the larger marine RAMBSS modular system which is rated up to 6kWh and comes in three height options for all watertoys with integrated or removable LI-ion batteries.
The modules are waterproof and designed for operation on superyachts. They can be installed in 2 or 3 days and adapted to the various types and numbers of watertoys on board. Features include: A multi-nozzle extinguishing system with emergency power supply; Integrated cooling & ventilation with filtering for toxins; Intelligent touchscreen and Wifi for active monitoring; Made from ballistic composite with blast buffering elements. RAMBSS Modules are certified by DMT TÜV Nord and surpass compliance with the MGN 681 guideline.
For more details visit www.livault.com