Lithium Fire


How would you fight a Lithium Fire in a cargo container on the back deck while underway???

anybody know pros and cons of using a water FOGGER through a small opening in the container to try to cool the lithium???

Lithium reacts violently with water

what are the thoughts of trying to push the container off the back deck if possible and the fire is caught early enough???

this is the next question in a fire drill that i need to conduct onboard:eek:


First consult the MSDS sheets specific to your cargo (some lithium-ion batteries don’t react well to certain measure like Class-D extinguishers).

If you catch it early enough you should use a Class D, Copper Based extinguisher.

Otherwise, I’d set up boundary cooling on the exterior of the container and drop a full semi-portable bottle’s worth of CO2 inside with a Piercing Applicator Nozzle punctured into the top of the container. Follow that with a burst of Dry Chem then cover the hole. During this time I’d be clearing other containers and fuel sources from the area while hooking up lifting gear.

If possible I’d hang the container over the side with the crane. If not, I’d monitor it for heat and, once the boundary cooling stopped being effective, I’d jettison the container… just make sure you do so before the bottom falls out.

That being said, the above comments are just my initial thoughts. There is no substitute for experience and I personally have never experienced Lithium Ion fire of that scale. If I was carrying this cargo this dangerous I’d ask my company for specific training.

SO… my suggestion is to call <a href=“”>Tom Guldner</a>. He should be able to give you better advice than me over the phone and, if your company agrees, he can come out to your vessel and train up the crew.


Above advice will also be dependant on position of container, and how approachable it actually is.

Secondly, jettison of box will depend if the vsl is equipped aith crane / or gearless - and also, again, will depend on position - ie how many other boxes are stowed on ton of the one that is on fire.

So - I would use boundary cooling, first.
Second, depending of fire extinguishing equipent on board (co2 or chemical powder extinguishers) - fill the box with it.

Anyhow, this is hazardous situation for which, I would first call DPA on emergency line for advice.

Also do not forget to manouver the ship as necessary,to reduce the wind effect.
Port of refuge to be considered, for proffesional assistance from ashore, etc…


[I][quote=jolly;20141]Above advice will also be dependant on position of container, and how approachable it actually is…[/quote][/I]

Sounds like a key consideration on where to load this container. Being a tanker-type I have no first-hand experience with container ops, is this considered when planning a load?


as far as stacked and RoRo barges the tugs I worked were pretty much left out of the load plan “loop”…if something catches fire “back there” it’s “burn baby burn” because you can’t be certain of whats back there and where…always considered that a downside of working that segment of the industry!!



Sounds like a key consideration on where to load this container. Being a tanker-type I have no first-hand experience with container ops, is this considered when planning a load?[/quote]

There is IMDG code applied when loading all IMDG cargo.
So, first - separation of cargo is considered, and also segregation of cargo.

Flamable cargo (boxes) are separated from lets say - heat sources, etc…

But, this also means that you can have emtpy boxes loaded on top of IMDG cargo (no rule forbidding this), and you can have some other boxes below with some general cargo inside.

In that case - probably no rule is broken, but access to box which is on fire is limited.

Second: if you have this box on 3rd tier (very high above deck) the safety of crew performing such high altitude task is in question.

So in this case in real situation I would:

  1. provide boundary cooling

  2. check IMDG code for instructions (procedures specific for fire on certain type of IMDG cargo)

  3. Check ISM guides for instructions on procedures (high altitude work / fire fighting / safety equipment to use, etc…)

  4. contact DPA - with all info on hand, by emcy line and than by email.

  5. Manouvre the ship to reduce wind effect. (bow thruster on if necessary, shaft generator off, two generators running, reduced speed etc…

  6. Consider port of refuge if necessity develops

  7. Take actions as per points 1 to 5, taking DPA advice in consideration. At all times would keep in touch with DPA.

@ mr 100ton:
For intended drill (since the question is about the execution of drill):
Check all IMDG code requriements and procedure according to UN number and class of cargo,
check all ISM guides to procedures
and check equipment on board.

Breif all the crew on all above. An explain each person duties

Execute the drill.
Make a report.

In case IMDG instructions are necessary, I will provide them on request, just give me exactly what type of lithium cargo it is (declaration on DG manifest), class, and UN number.
UN number is most important to establish procedure required.

Also, let me know if you have any cargo gear on board (for eventual jetisson of cargo_), but here I already see possible troubles… we can discuss it if you like!


Jolly is pretty much right on. After sailing I joined a company that boards container ships and performs stowage and segregation inspections for them.

Lithium is nasty stuff, but as per the IMDG the only stowage requirement is that is be stowed “away” from acids and may be stowed on deck or under deck. Most container ships (in my experience) are not capable of handling cargo on their own. Even if they were and there was a fire involving a container of lithium, it would be doubtful that the crew would be able to drop all the lashing rods and then move containers around in response to the fire. According to the IMDG and a response manual I have the fumes created by a fire involving lithium are very dangerous. So, in order to jettison the container all people involved in the fire fighting and cargo handling would have to be wearing SCBAs.

This could be a very dangerous situation, especially if the container was stowed in a hold. I think all the things Jolly suggested were right on, except I would add that the vessel should be brought around into the wind to minimize the exposure to the smoke and fume. That said, this is usually standard practice when fighting a ship board fire.

I think I remember some shipping companies requiring special fire fighting equipment to be on board in order for a vessel to carry certain commodities like this. It is not an IMO, USCG, etc requirement, just common sense from somebody ashore.


Thank you all for the reply’s, This is more than ample information for me,