The fire that broke out on the COSCO Pacific was caused by the spontaneous combustion of a lithium ion battery, according to widely reported update from the Chinese carrier.
Port Technology International (PTI) reported on the story when it broke yesterday. The vessel caught fire in the Arabian Sea while en route from Port Klang, Malaysia, to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT), India.
The fire was controlled by the ship’s crew by use of CO2 suppressant, but the vessel was forced to make an emergency call at the Port of Colombo on January 6 2020 where as of January 8 2020 it remains berthed.
No injuries were reported but it is unknown what damage has been done to the cargo. The cargo in question was reportedly owned by Wan Hai Lines and was loaded onto the vessel at the Port of Nansha, China.
Lithium-based batteries are characterized as dangerous goods due to their corrosive nature and have to be stored correctly to avoid being a fire hazard. According to reports, COSCO have stated that the batteries were not properly declared.
In a report published in November 2019, DNV GL described a fire caused by a lithium-ion fire as “extremely difficult to extinguish, having elements of multiple types of fire – metallic, chemical etc”.
Fires of this nature are also able to produce their own oxygen and give themselves a sustainable source of fuel.
The fire on the COSCO Pacific was the first major fire at sea of 2020, after several took place last year.