One of the things that has become increasingly clear with the advent of electric cars is when they catch fire, these fires are incredibly difficult to put out. This is true for fully equipped shore fire crews, but imagine one of these fires happening in a ship at sea.
It’s not that hard to imagine because it happened to the Felicity Ace cargo ship last year. The good thing was that the crew count was relatively small for a cargo ship. What if it happened on a cruise ship? That’s the question that Norwegian Cruise Line Havila Kysruten asked consultancy Proactima AS when the Norwegian government asked it to transport vehicles on some of its coastal cruise ships. The answer, as recently reported by Maritime Executivewas “absolutely not.”
Proactima AS determined that although the vessels were state of the art and capable of withstanding a petrochemical fire, the risk of a lithium or even a hydrogen fire was too great to justify. Also, the likelihood of deleting it without endangering the lives of the passengers wasn’t worth the risk. This is because a lithium fire not only burns incredibly hot, but also produces a lot of toxic fumes.
Havila’s all-new ships use lithium storage batteries themselves, but the difference between these and the battery cells in a consumer EV is significant. For example, shipping regulations state that a ship using such batteries must have them in a separate fireproof room with a fire suppression system specifically designed for the type of battery used.
Will this decision by Havila Kystruten affect other ferries or transport vessels? For example, will the Washington State Ferry system restrict the transportation of electric vehicles? What precautions will large transport ships take to prevent a situation like the one we saw on the Felicity Ace from happening again?
We reached out to Havila Kystruten for comment, but didn’t hear back in time for publication.