Lithium-ion battery fire on cargo ship extinguished by US Coast Guard

January 2, 2024

Fire on cargo ship off Dutch Harbor

The U.S. Coast Guard successfully extinguished a fire on the cargo ship Genius Star XI, which had been burning for several days off Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

The fire, involving lithium-ion batteries, presented unique challenges due to the nature of the cargo and the ship’s location.

The crew, unharmed in the incident, had first detected the fire on December 25 while the vessel was en route from Vietnam to California.

They initially attempted to contain the fire using the CO2 fixed firefighting system and boundary cooling with firehoses, but the situation escalated with a second fire in another hold​​​​.

Response and mitigation efforts

The Coast Guard was notified of the fire on December 28, and a one-mile safety zone was established around the ship.

The Genius Star XI, carrying 800 tonnes of batteries, was advised to divert to Dutch Harbor for assistance.

On arrival, a Salvage and Marine Firefighting team boarded the vessel, confirming the crew’s safety and the fire’s containment.

The vessel was then anchored in Broad Bay, near Dutch Harbor, under a protected anchorage to minimize any risk of re-ignition.

Throughout the incident, the crew’s quick response and the Coast Guard’s strategic actions played a crucial role in preventing a more severe outcome​​​​.

Lithium-ion battery fire: Environmental and community impact

The fire posed potential risks to the community and environment, particularly due to the toxic gases produced by the burning lithium-ion batteries.

To mitigate these risks, the ship was kept two miles offshore while the response operations were underway.

The Coast Guard and other responders worked diligently to ensure that the fire was completely extinguished and that there were no further hazards.

Fortunately, no oil leaks or additional environmental damage were reported by the ship’s owners, Wisdom Marine Group​​.

FSJA comment

The recent fire aboard Genius Star XI highlights the complex challenges faced in maritime safety, particularly with the transportation of lithium-ion batteries.

This incident underscores the importance of robust fire response protocols and the need for continuous improvement in maritime safety standards.

It also demonstrates the effective coordination between the ship’s crew and the U.S.

Coast Guard, showcasing their preparedness and responsiveness to such emergencies.

As maritime trade continues to grow, ensuring the safety of cargo ships, especially those carrying potentially hazardous materials, remains a paramount concern.

This incident serves as a reminder of the ongoing need for vigilance, training, and investment in safety measures within the maritime industry.

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