I'm noticing more and more reports of lithium-ion batteries, packed in luggage or shipping containers, causing fires that can potentially be devastating.
Several container ships have had fires on board that damaged them severely, notably MV Maersk Honam and MV Maersk Kensington in March 2018, the SSL Kolkata in June 2018, and MV Yantian Express this month. As a result, changes to the guidelines for dangerous cargo in containers are being discussed. It's not certain that lithium-ion batteries were involved in all the incidents, but experts in the field say that danger is increasing due to the growing number of such batteries included in modern consumer electronics. Lithium-ion batteries will burn or explode if punctured, can't tolerate water damage, and are very sensitive to shocks.
Aircraft are also at risk: lithium-ion batteries have caused more than one fire aboard airliners - so much so that the ICAO has banned them from being loaded into cargo compartments of passenger aircraft. The most recent example happened just a few days ago.
The latest fire involved Air Transat flight 443, on an Airbus A321 operating from Cancun to Vancouver on 12 January.
During the baggage loading process in Cancun, "brown smoke could be seen coming" from one piece of luggage, according to a preliminary aviation incident report released by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada. The fire burned through the luggage, it adds.
"The suitcase was taken away from the gate area and sprayed with a portable fire extinguisher," says the report. "It was determined that the fire and smoke was caused by electronic cigarette batteries that were overheating."
Air Transat did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The incident did not cause injuries, but it punctuates a risk the TSB highlighted last week in a report into the cause of a June 2018 fire involving a WestJet Boeing 737-700.
That aircraft was operating WestJet flight 113 from Calgary to Vancouver when the crew received an aft cargo fire warning light while climbing through 9,000ft, the TSB's 18 January report says.
The crew discharged fire extinguishers and safely made an emergency return to Calgary, where ground workers discovered a scorched bag in the cargo hold.
The passenger who owned the bag "inadvertently packed two spare lithium-ion batteries for his e-cigarette", the TSB says. "One battery in the charger experienced a thermal runaway."
The WestJet incident "highlights the hazard that lithium-ion batteries, such as those found in electronic cigarettes, pose to the safety of aircraft when stored in checked baggage," it adds.
There's more at the link.
Yet another reason to be leery of commercial air travel . . . as if the TSA wasn't bad enough!