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Coast Guard Warns Ships of Lithium-Ion Battery Charging

A safety bulletin issued by the Coast Guard this week warns ships carrying passengers to consider the fire hazard of “the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords.” The Conception disaster led to the warnings — which include five others having to do with fire, emergency, and escape — as the bulletin states the Coast Guard and maritime industry need not delay in taking action before the official Marine Board of Investigation report on the fire, sinking, and loss of life is completed.

Although multiple agencies are investigating the circumstances of the Conception tragedy, their spokespersons have remained silent on the cause of the fire, stating they will wait until reports are finalized. Speculation has been rife, however, on the underwater photographic excursions planned for that Labor Day weekend by the dive operator, Worldwide Diving Adventures, and the probable quantity of lithium-ion batteries needing to be recharged for lights, cameras, cell phones, and other equipment.

Commercial aircraft rules restrict loose lithium-ion batteries carried as spares, requiring them to be in carry-on luggage and banning them from checked luggage. The Transportation Security Administration states it is out of a fear of the contacts touching and sparking, and the Federal Aviation Administration regulations require battery terminals to be covered by tape or packaging.

The Coast Guard’s safety bulletin goes on to recommend that ships review passenger compartments for “unsafe practices and other hazardous arrangements,” that emergency escapes are identified and unobstructed, that all firefighting and lifesaving equipment is on board and operational, that training logs are kept current, and that the number of overnight passengers comply with the ship’s Certificate of Inspection.

Correction: This story was corrected on Sept. 18, 2019, as the name of the dive company is Worldwide, not Underwater, Diving Adventures.

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