USCG reports another fire in misdeclared box of discarded batteries


A previous misdeclared container of discarded lithium-ion batteries caught fire last year (USCG file image)

Posted on March 14, 2022 at 5:30 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

After another fire in a misdeclared container of discarded batteries, the Coast Guard placed all of the shipper’s containers in the shipment on hold until proven safe.

At approximately 8:20 p.m. on March 4, the Los Angeles-Long Beach Coast Guard received a report of a burning shipping container at the San Pedro Bay port complex in Los Angeles/Long Beach. The box was to be loaded onto a ship bound for China on March 10 and was still waiting at the dock.

40 firefighters from the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to the scene and extinguished the blaze, but their efforts were hampered by the container being misreported, according to the Coast Guard. The container’s bill of lading indicated that it was carrying “synthetic resins”, a non-hazardous material. It actually contained used lithium-ion batteries, which are a hazardous material with a high fire risk.

As a precaution, the Coast Guard has worked with port officials to find and identify any other shipping containers at the facility that may pose the same risk. Working with Customs and Border Protection, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration, and the Port of Los Angeles, the USCG worked to identify and inspect all containers belonging to the same shipper. Additionally, the Coast Guard has put all shipper out boxes on hold until they can prove shipments comply with safety regulations.

“Undeclared hazardous materials pose a serious risk to the safety of cargo ships, ports and first responders,” said Capt. Rebecca Ore, harbor master and commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles – Long Beach. “With our federal, state and local partners, the Coast Guard is committed to working with all shippers to ensure hazardous materials are properly marked and packaged for safe transportation.”

Just last week, the Coast Guard issued a safety bulletin regarding a similar cargo fire in a container in transit. On August 19, 2021, a container loaded with used lithium batteries caught fire while en route to the Port of Virginia. It had to be loaded onto a foreign-flagged boxship to be transported to China. Fortunately for the shipowner, the batteries ignited while the container was still advancing on the highway, before it reached the quay.

“Field personnel should be on alert for these shipments and engage port stakeholders as appropriate to ensure compliance with all applicable standards and safe navigation conditions,” the Coast Guard advised its marine inspectors. .

The IMDG code contains the required markings for damaged, defective or discarded batteries, as well as specific packaging for safe shipment. Battery short circuits can cause thermal runaway, resulting in the dangerous release of flammable and toxic gases, followed by a risk of fire or explosion.


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