Britannia P&I report highlights risks of onboard electric vehicle fires

Britannia P&I report highlights risks of onboard electric vehicle fires

Britannia P&I

The report explores the hazards, risks and implications of electric vehicle fires on car-carrying vessels

Britannia P&I has partnered with Burgoyne and Partners to produce a Britannia Loss Prevention Insight report titled Electric Vehicle Fires: An Overview for the Maritime Sector.  

The report, authored by Dr Darren Holling, a partner at Burgoynes specialising in the origins and causes of fires and explosions, explores the hazards, risks and implications of electric vehicle fires on car-carrying vessels. The report also examines ways of reducing the risk of electric vehicle fires and how to deal with the fires when they occur. 

Japanese shipowner and Britannia Member NYK worked with the Japanese Maritime Disaster Prevention Centre to carry out a study to investigate firefighting of electric vehicle fires onboard ships. This study, which involved full-scale fire testing conducted on a Nissan Leaf electric car to find out exactly how fire can spread rapidly, formed the basis of the report. 

The tests indicated that the water sprinkler system used was not effective at extinguishing the electric fire within the vehicle, which continued to burn for an hour before being extinguished by firefighter intervention. However, the sprinkler system did prevent the fire from spreading to adjacent vehicles, allowing time for firefighters to arrive on scene and extinguish the fire. 

According to the report, other vehicle burn tests have demonstrated that a fire in a single vehicle can spread laterally to an adjacent parked vehicle within about five minutes. In cases where vehicles are parked in parallel orientations and are separated by just over a car’s width, it has been demonstrated that fires can initially take about 10 to 20 minutes to spread laterally to a second vehicle. The pace of fire then increases as it spreads to more vehicles. 

The report also suggested that onboard ro-ro vessels where vehicles are parked very close together, rapid lateral and vertical spread of fire from a single vehicle to surrounding ones could quickly turn a single vehicle incident into a more serious one. It therefore highlighted early fire detection and suppression as being of particular importance onboard those vessels. 

The full report can be accessed on Britannia P&I’s website

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Alex Smith
By Alex Smith
22 September 2021

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