top of page

10 things to do to fight and prevent lithium batteries fire on boats & yachts

Fires on boats can be dangerous, especially when they are caused by lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are widely used in boats because of their high energy density, long life, and low maintenance requirements. Onboard superyachts, they are now present in water toys like seadoos, scuba-diving equipments, etc

These batteries are arguably at the origin of significant fire risks in past years. M/Y Ablaze, Black Diamond, Aria SF by ISA, Good Vibes by Bilgin, … the list is long of yachts damaged by fire in 2022 (full list here) and many times lighium batteries were used onboard. In this article, we will see how to fight a fire caused by lithium batteries onboard boats and what you should do to react properly

Fire 25-metre Sunseeker 82.jpeg

What is a lithium battery?

Before we dive into the steps to take in the event of a lithium battery fire, it's essential to understand why lithium batteries are a fire risk. Lithium batteries contain flammable electrolytes that can ignite if they are punctured, overcharged, or overheated. When the electrolyte ignites, it can trigger a chain reaction that leads to an explosive and uncontrollable fire. You may have seen crazy videos online of fire burning a whole yacht from a little spark in a few seconds.
This makes it crucial to take all necessary precautions to avoid such incidents and know how to act when they happen.

Do not mix lithium battery and lithium-ion battery

Lithium batteries are non-rechargeable or "primary" high capacity cells. They are commonly found in many objects (watch batteries, "AA", cameras, etc). On the other hand, lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries used in laptops, electric cars, etc. and do not contain lithium in its metallic form.

Lithium batteries are a class D (flammable metal) fire hazard and require a specialized fire extinguisher specifically designed for this hazard, whereas lithium-ion batteries are a class A hazard. The danger of lithium-ion battery fires lies in the electrolyte contained in the batteries rather than the lithium salts. Each battery uses a different electrolyte solution, but many contain fluorine, which readily combines with the hydrogen in the water used to fight the fire producing hydrogen fluoride.

10 things to do to fight a fire caused by lithium batteries on a boat

Here are 10 things to do when fighting a fire caused by lithium batteries onboard boats:

  1. Activate the fire alarm: If your boat has a fire alarm system, activate it. This will alert the crew and passengers and give them more time to evacuate.

  2. Turn off the power: Turn off the power supply to the lithium batteries if it is safe to do so. This will prevent further overheating and the spread of the fire.

  3. Call for help: As soon as you realize that there is a fire on your yacht, call for help. Dial your local emergency services number or the coast guard if you are out at sea.

  4. Use fire extinguishers: If the fire is small and contained, you can use a fire extinguisher to put it out. Be sure to use the right type of extinguisher, such as a Class D extinguisher designed for lithium battery fires (whereas for lithium-ion battery fires, a Class A extinguisher should be used)

  5. Cover the fire: If you cannot put out the fire, cover it with a fire blanket or any other non-flammable material to smother it and cut off the oxygen supply.

  6. Evacuate the area: Quickly evacuate the area around the fire. Ensure that everyone on board is aware of the fire and knows how to evacuate safely.

  7. Seal the area: Close all hatches, doors, and windows to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading. This will help to slow down the fire and limit its damage.

  8. Cool down the batteries: If the fire is caused by overheating lithium batteries, you can use a fire suppression system to cool them down. This will help to prevent further damage and reduce the risk of re-ignition.

  9. Ventilate the area: Once the fire is out, open all hatches, doors, and windows to ventilate the area and get rid of any toxic gases.

  10. Investigate the cause: After the fire has been put out, investigate the cause of the fire. Determine what went wrong and take steps to prevent it from happening again

10 additional precautions to avoid fires caused by lithium batteries on board a boat

In addition to the above steps, there are some precautions you can take to avoid lithium battery fires onboard boats:

  1. Store lithium batteries in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight.

  2. Use a battery management system to monitor the state of the batteries and prevent overcharging and overheating.

  3. Do not use damaged or faulty batteries. Replace them immediately.

  4. Avoid puncturing or crushing lithium batteries.

  5. Do not expose lithium batteries to extreme temperatures.

  6. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for charging, storing, and handling lithium batteries.

  7. Install a fire suppression system that is designed for lithium battery fires.

  8. Train your crew and passengers on fire safety procedures, including how to respond to a lithium battery fire.

  9. Have a contingency plan in place for handling lithium battery fires.

  10. Conduct regular controls and maintenance checkups to ensure your batteries are in best shape

You have questions or experience to share with handling lithium batteries on boats? Write us at!

Do you know the BoatOn Book?
Discover the testimony of Philippe, maritime technical director

"It's really easy to use software. I'm won over by this solution at a very reasonable price."

bottom of page