Cruisers Forum
 


Join CruisersForum Today

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 03-02-2020, 08:41   #1
Registered User
 
JDGreenlee's Avatar

Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Texas
Boat: PSC 37 Crealock #149
Posts: 81
Explosions fires rescue at sea

A buddy and I got Rhapsody in shape and set sail from Houston for Isla Mujeres, Mexico, Sunday after Christmas. Halfway there, at 2AM on Thu 2 Jan a heavy duty Li-ion battery pack exploded 4 times during about 10 minutes setting the boat interior afire repeatedly. The cordless drill was nestled amidship in a dry locker but apparently suffered mechanical damage due to wave-on-hull impacts in 2m seas and 20kt winds - a normal sea-state in bluewater. Ignition was 30 min AFTER heaving-to for sleep. We broadcast "Mayday" after the 2nd explosion, set off the EPIRB after the 3rd explosion, and expended both fire extinguishers. The US Coast Guard diverted an LPG tanker and launched 2 fixed wing planes to ascertain the situation. Seas were too rough to safely transfer onto the LPG tanker's tender and dawn shown no better so USCG launched a helicopter to rescue us. They were required to re-fueled en route. We jumped into the sea and swam to a cage with the assistance of a diver before being winched aboard. Rhapsody was abandoned 288 nm SE of Corpus Christi, was last seen afloat pointed toward Mexico, but now sleeps with the fishes. The kind folks on Anadarko's production platform loaned us dry clothes and fed us a hot meal while the chopper re-fueled again. Our wives retrieved us at Ellington Field and have us on substantially shorter leashes. Kudos to the USCG. It was a very technical rescue. Thanks to the generous folks at Anadarko. Thank you American taxpayer. Treat Li-ion batteries with kid gloves. Crew sustained only minor injuries. I could no longer reasonably guarantee the safety of the crew far offshore with depleted fire extinguishers, expended EPIRB, charred interior, and no PPE to decontaminate to secure food and water supplies. No tow in range. All gear was lost. Markel Jack-Line policy paid after thorough investigation without fuss: professionals laser-focused on the details of the incident. I was under-insured or self-insured. Review and update your policy for Scheduled Personal Property in excess of the minimum. My policy covered only $1k electronics. Aboard were several computers and software, underwater camera, underwater metal detector, etc. Note drones were excluded without scheduling. The ship was family and priceless.
__________________

JDGreenlee is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-02-2020, 09:27   #2
Senior Cruiser
 
tkeithlu's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Carrabelle, Florida
Boat: Fiberglas shattering 44' steel trawler
Posts: 1,761
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

I, and all of us I'm sure, are very happy that the two of you are OK, and sorry that you lost your boat and possessions.

It has come up repeatedly that fiberglass boats are damned flammable, or at least I make the point frequently. If anything, I'm surprised that the hull did not burn, leaving you in your raft or in the water.

Congratulate yourself for not trying to save the boat when the extinguishers were gone. The smoke produced by burning resin and by synthetic materials inside a boat is very toxic; you could be in the hospital with plastic coated lungs.

I hope your next boat is the "Phoenix," and you have many more adventures of a less traumatic kind.

Meanwhile, the USCG is just about as poorly funded as the National Park Service; both deserve our saying we are willing to pay more taxes for these uses.
__________________

__________________
Never let anything mechanical know that you are in a hurry.
tkeithlu is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-02-2020, 09:52   #3
Senior Cruiser
 
tkeithlu's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Carrabelle, Florida
Boat: Fiberglas shattering 44' steel trawler
Posts: 1,761
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Do I understand that the origin of this fire was a lithium-ion drill battery that got banged around in a locker? If that's correct, and there is currently discussion of powering entire boats with Li-ion batteries, and I did read a full page ad in the paper this morning begging people not to handle Li-ion cells because they are explosive.... Isn't it time we had a serious discussion of the safety of Li-ion batteries in boats? To start with, what happens when you short a Li-ion battery with seawater, a reasonably likely scenario?
__________________
Never let anything mechanical know that you are in a hurry.
tkeithlu is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-02-2020, 09:53   #4
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2018
Location: Maryland
Boat: 1985 Ericson 32-3
Posts: 251
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Congratulations on living through what must have been a pretty scary ordeal. AND thank you for posting for others to learn from your loss because there are a number of good lessons.

Starting off with the batteries, some chemistries are safer than others and some are built safer than others. The issue is that we users have no idea what actually is in the plastic battery casing or how it was constructed. Even worse is that there are a number of shady resellers who will put a Panasonic/LG/etc wrapper on a poorly made Chinese battery. So I'll start by offering that it's a good idea to simply put lithium batteries in a steel case unless in use with enough padding to prevent the cases being dented as the boat pounds. Optimally the steel case will be one that you can get out of where it is being kept to chuck it overboard.

Fire extinguishers are nearly ineffective at this point because each cell has its' own fuel, oxygen, and potential source of heat once it starts to thermally run away. The best you can do is try to cool the cells and if possible to drown them. Fortunately boats do have lots of available water. Remember that the smoke is largely carbon monoxide with lots of plasticizers and a small amount of acids (eye watering and really bad for lungs) so you don't want to breath it.

You follow in a long list of people who probably could have gotten by with just the original battery cooking itself off, if it weren't for the things the battery ignited. Most of our boat interiors are wood and cushions are not fire-blocked foam. Like a camp fire, the little battery starts the wood and the wood can start the polyester resin of the fiberglass.

Thanks for sharing about the insurance too.

Bob
https://howitbroke.com
Checkswrecks is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-02-2020, 10:03   #5
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2018
Location: Maryland
Boat: 1985 Ericson 32-3
Posts: 251
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by tkeithlu View Post
Do I understand that the origin of this fire was a lithium-ion drill battery that got banged around in a locker? If that's correct, and there is currently discussion of powering entire boats with Li-ion batteries, and I did read a full page ad in the paper this morning begging people not to handle Li-ion cells because they are explosive.... Isn't it time we had a serious discussion of the safety of Li-ion batteries in boats? To start with, what happens when you short a Li-ion battery with seawater, a reasonably likely scenario?
The issue of damaging portable batteries is very different than the discussion of using lithium cells as house or engine banks. Those are required to be fixed in place which should prevent casing damage.

I deal with reporters and they mean well but need to attract attention to their articles to survive. Many are a bit like Chicken Little in talking about the sky falling, when the reality that something may have happened to somebody somewhere but it is not the norm. Just do lots of research on your own purchases and use some common sense.

As mentioned in my previous post, loose lithium cells ought to be kept in a way that they can't be dented or sustain repeated impacts.

Sea water and shorting aren't much of a fire hazard, that relates more to damaging the expensive cells. The vast majority of lithium cells will have some sort of low voltage protection. If the shorting voltage goes below that threshold the cells will "brick" and become unusable. The worst case is water accumulating in the bottom of a box of aluminum cells because the cells will set up a line of corrosion at the top of the water and it can perforate the case over a period of weeks or months. Then you have a light oil electrolyte loose in the battery box. It feels like a light oil such as diesel fuel.

Bob
https://howitbroke.com
Checkswrecks is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-02-2020, 17:57   #6
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Victoria BC
Boat: 1980 Hunter 36
Posts: 975
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Big difference between portable lithium battery packs for drills etc and the LifePO4 systems people are using as house banks

Sorry you lost the boat - sounds extremely harrowing
__________________
S/V Gudgeon
www.gudgeonblog.ca
alctel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2020, 10:06   #7
Registered User

Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: Marion, MA
Boat: Pearson 34
Posts: 106
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Glad you are safe and agree it was wise to let the boat go rather than risking your lives trying to save her. Kudo's to USCG.
rsb333
RSB333 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2020, 10:37   #8
Registered User

Join Date: May 2012
Location: Halifax, NS, Canada
Boat: 47' Steel Roberts Cutter
Posts: 327
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

That was a terrifying event; but you escaped with you lives - well done. And thank you for the public service youíre doing by sharing your experience.

I have 4 cordless tools, with 8 batteries (all high capacity); plus a 1000A booster/jumper pack on board- all likely a similar Li chemistry (probably based on multiple tabbed AA, 1/3A, or C cells); As well as a few miscellaneous smaller packs on handheld vhfís, lights, speakers, etc etc. Thatís a lot of potential energy.

I will be changing how I store these items aboard- do not wish to experience that!
NSboatman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2020, 12:01   #9
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Charleston SC
Boat: O'day 322
Posts: 8
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Great story! Lithium Ion battery technology has also bitten Boeing. If you recall, the entire 787 fleet was grounded due to issues with the batteries. They were never able to fully determine what was causing the fires, so they did a belt and suspenders type of fix....they designed a fireproof box that vented overboard just in case they had another runaway event. The engineering that went into the box was amazing.
skybolter is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2020, 12:02   #10
Registered User

Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 2,154
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Lithium batteries aboard a boat = hazard.

I am a senior executive of a company that manufactures portable power tools that utilize rather large capacity lithium batteries. Transporting the batteries with their equipment or stand alone requires proper packaging and labeling and each and every person that handles or administers the packaging and shipping is required to have specialized training.

It is challenging to control a fire that is derived from a charge lithium battery. We have had batteries catch on fire when they were improperly disposed on at the county landfill. The landfill had to dig out the batteries and set them aside until the fire destroyed everything. And of course any crushing, or shorting of the leads induces a lot of current flow and heating.

Regulations differ depending upon
what type of lithium battery you are
shipping (lithium ion or lithium metal)
and whether you are shipping batteries
packed without equipment, batteries
packed with equipment, or batteries
contained in equipment.

The goods are transported as Class 9 Hazardous Goods with appropriate declarations and warning labels and restrictions as to method and means of transport. Exemplary labels are detailed below and are placed on each individual power tool packaging and also on each covering of a palletized load of packaged tools or packaged batteries. Note the bold warning FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ON AIRCRAFT OR VESSEL. That warning is to be taken seriously, VERY SERIOUSLY.

We do NOT transport the batteries on board a passenger plane or a passenger vessel; we ship only on cargo planes and cargo vessels and of course by commercial truck transport. We have shipped consignments of thousands of large format batteries on single cargo flights, it becomes a very expensive shipment from China to the USA, e.g. $10 per battery due to the hazardous risk involved in transporting them and the considerable weight and bulk of the pallet loads. Personally I would not like to be the flight crew aboard the plane knowing as they do that the specifics of the hazardous manifest of our consignment, even though we go to great detail of providing individual terminal isolation and protective packaging of individual batteries as if our lives depend on the safety of the items we consign to ship.

On board a yacht I would recommend for portable power tool batteries that they have the battery terminals taped with an insulative tape, then place each individual battery inside a sturdy, sealable plastic bag, one battery per bag, then put the batteries inside a fire proof container, such as a lockable ammo can, with padding between each individually bagged battery. Do not store removable batteries inside their equipment, or on a battery charger. It is wise to store lithium batteries in a depleted state of charge, e.g., 40 to 60% of charge so as to reduce the energy capacity. Place a battery into its equipment only when you are intending to promptly use it. When you are done utilizing the tool remove the battery and again properly store it immediately. Purchase equipment that has removable / replaceable batteries instead of fixed installations of batteries that have to be recharged and fixedly stored inside the equipment. Store the batteries in a cool, dry location.

Ditto that practice for home and job site usage.

If the small portable batteries are kept in a portable, fire protective container one can simply discharge the entire container overboard and the fire can be constrained to be just inside the container and starved of ambient oxygen thereby constraining the chemical combustion to just the oxygen molecules that may be in the lithium compound. Note there are lithium chemistries that do not have oxygen, e.g., LiPo which are inherently less prone to runaway combustion, but many commercial power tools use chemistries that contain oxygen.

It is common practice to store all flammable hazardous goods in fire proof containers or lockers. Batteries should be kept separately stored from combustible goods, particularly highly flammable goods and the batteries stored in their own fire proof containers.

Extinguishing lithium battery fires is difficult. Often one can suppress the fire for a short while but it will likely reignite which seems to be the instance of the OP. Been there done that, no joy.

We have had discussions with the local fire department regarding our lithium battery inventory at our manufacturing / assembly facility. We store the bulk battery inventory in separate 20 foot cargo shipping containers outside and of the building and at about 40 yards distance. The limited amount of packaged goods inventory are kept inside because the packaging is sturdy cardboard boxes meant for retail display and purchase. The firefighters have been told to just evacuate buildings downwind to avoid toxic fumes that may emit the outside shipping container storage and to just let the entire container [20 feet] to burn itself out. We have about a quarter mile separation between our facility and the nearest occupied buildings and even if a fire broke out the distance should provide adequate ambient dilution of toxic fumes downwind, the hot gases will rise and not be travel close to the surface. Our firefighters are volunteers, we have told them just stand back and let the plant and the inventory burn, don't attempt entry unless there are employees in the building needing assistance to evacuate.

You don't allow combustible liquids to be hazardously stored aboard your vessel, e.g., solvents, gasoline or alcohol in a tippable or breakable container; similarly don't store any batteries, lithium, alkaline, lead acid, [primary or secondary batteries] in a hazardous manner. Each and every battery should have its terminals conductively isolated. Heck a paper clip inside a drawer with an alkaline battery can cause a short and a fire.
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	lithium warning label.jpg
Views:	103
Size:	16.7 KB
ID:	208137   Click image for larger version

Name:	61+U246nYEL._SX466_.jpg
Views:	111
Size:	25.3 KB
ID:	208138  

Montanan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2020, 12:28   #11
Registered User

Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 2,154
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by JDGreenlee View Post
A buddy and I got Rhapsody in shape and set sail from Houston for Isla Mujeres, Mexico, Sunday after Christmas. Halfway there, at 2AM on Thu 2 Jan a heavy duty Li-ion battery pack exploded 4 times during about 10 minutes setting the boat interior afire repeatedly. The cordless drill was nestled amidship in a dry locker but apparently suffered mechanical damage due to wave-on-hull impacts in 2m seas and 20kt winds - a normal sea-state in bluewater. Ignition was 30 min AFTER heaving-to for sleep. We broadcast "Mayday" after the 2nd explosion, set off the EPIRB after the 3rd explosion, and expended both fire extinguishers. The US Coast Guard diverted an LPG tanker and launched 2 fixed wing planes to ascertain the situation. Seas were too rough to safely transfer onto the LPG tanker's tender and dawn shown no better so USCG launched a helicopter to rescue us. They were required to re-fueled en route. We jumped into the sea and swam to a cage with the assistance of a diver before being winched aboard. Rhapsody was abandoned 288 nm SE of Corpus Christi, was last seen afloat pointed toward Mexico, but now sleeps with the fishes. The kind folks on Anadarko's production platform loaned us dry clothes and fed us a hot meal while the chopper re-fueled again. Our wives retrieved us at Ellington Field and have us on substantially shorter leashes. Kudos to the USCG. It was a very technical rescue. Thanks to the generous folks at Anadarko. Thank you American taxpayer. Treat Li-ion batteries with kid gloves. Crew sustained only minor injuries. I could no longer reasonably guarantee the safety of the crew far offshore with depleted fire extinguishers, expended EPIRB, charred interior, and no PPE to decontaminate to secure food and water supplies. No tow in range. All gear was lost. Markel Jack-Line policy paid after thorough investigation without fuss: professionals laser-focused on the details of the incident. I was under-insured or self-insured. Review and update your policy for Scheduled Personal Property in excess of the minimum. My policy covered only $1k electronics. Aboard were several computers and software, underwater camera, underwater metal detector, etc. Note drones were excluded without scheduling. The ship was family and priceless.
The reason that you experienced FOUR explosive events and reignition is that there likely were four or more individual cells in the battery pack, each of which overheated, ruptured and shorted. In a battery pack, each cell is its own self contained bomblet. It is typical for the cells to cook off in sequence, with a cell that is immediately adjacent to a failing cell thence failing inturn. The entire pack of cells does not fail at once but can fail in rapid sequence. A fire involving an individual cell which has been extinguished often will reignite due to the cell continuing to short out and overheat again. I have seen packs whereby just one cell had failed and that cell reignited several times and have seen packs that just kept having adjacent cells runaway in sequence. Fortunately those batteries were brought outside into the parking lot and allowed to do their thing without damage to property or persons. On board a vessel one really needs to have a means to discharge the failing battery pack, not easy if the pack is hard to access or very large like a house battery pack. Plan for a method to rapidly access and disconnect large battery packs so as to brought out to be discharged overboard. Of added difficulty is that the fumes will be toxic meaning one can't really spend much time down below, fiddling about in a battery locker which is usually hard to access and which batteries are secured for heavy weather by clampings, and such burning battery will be extremely hot, if not flaming.
Montanan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2020, 13:04   #12
Registered User

Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: State of Washington
Boat: Tayana 37 Pilot House
Posts: 145
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

[QUOTE=Montanan;3067993]Lithium batteries aboard a boat = hazard.

I am a senior executive of a company that manufactures portable power tools that utilize rather large capacity lithium batteries......
......Regulations differ depending upon
what type of lithium battery you are
shipping (lithium ion or lithium metal).


Thank you for that detailed information. I have been told that lithium-cobalt batteries are more likely to explode than other types. Is this so? And is it difficult for the consumer to track down what type of lithium battery they have in their power tool?
Taipe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2020, 13:16   #13
Registered User
 
CaptTom's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Southern Maine
Boat: Prairie 36 Coastal Cruiser
Posts: 1,809
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Wow, thanks for sharing. Glad you and crew are well.

As for the batteries, another lesson we can all take to heart. Again, thanks!

We all knew about problems while charging these things. But just getting jostled around in storage is a new wrinkle. And the fact that the battery pack can re-ignite after being extinguished is a useful data point. I guess we now know to toss the whole thing overboard the first time, if we ever encounter this kind of fire.
CaptTom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2020, 13:25   #14
Registered User

Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 2,154
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Recommend that every boat be equipped with two or more fire blankets.

They provide for a continuously non-combustible barrier thus working longer than fire extinguishers which become empty.

Cover the fire will suppress the flames. For a battery pack one could likely wrap the battery and then carry it topside to discharge overboard.

Montanan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2020, 13:30   #15
Registered User

Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 2,154
Re: Explosions fires rescue at sea

Video of four cells bursting and flaming in sequence.

__________________

Montanan is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
grass, rescue

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
3000 explosions a year? jsc7 Health, Safety & Related Gear 34 24-04-2017 00:54
Nuclear Explosions Katiusha Pacific & South China Sea 6 23-11-2012 15:52
Are There Any Ship Accidents That Rescue Teams Were Not Effective To Rescue People ? lora20035 Challenges 3 31-03-2012 10:20
Fires on Board toewsrus Health, Safety & Related Gear 37 02-03-2008 00:41
U.S. Warship Fires Warning Shots Over Vessel Boarded by Pirates Off Somali Coast harpoon5.2 Health, Safety & Related Gear 0 05-06-2007 13:36

Advertise Here


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 23:53.


Google+
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.