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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

MARAD Issues Report on Hybrid Tug Battery Safety

By Mark Edward Nero

The Maritime Administration on July 1 announced the availability of a report evaluating the design and construction of new battery components, as well as the risks and benefits of battery use in the power plant of a hybrid tugboat.

The assessment, which was conducted after a battery-related fire aboard a hybrid tug, looks at the benefits and risks associated with the reinstallation of batteries as part of the vessel’s hybrid power system.

In August 2012, an explosion and fire occurred in one of the lithium-polymer batteries on the Foss Maritime hybrid tug Campbell Foss, and subsequent to that fire, Foss removed the remaining batteries from the vessel and all of the lead-acid batteries on its other hybrid tug, Carolyn Dorothy. Campbell Foss was returned to service in diesel configuration without batteries, and Carolyn Dorothy was returned to service in a modified hybrid configuration that didn’t require the use of batteries.

The newly-released assessment showed that a refined design with explosion protection, structural separation from occupied spaces, specialized battery controls, and shutdown protocols improved the risk profile for the hybrid power system.

The report also demonstrated that without the battery array, the hybrid system would not achieve the tug’s full performance requirements nor the emissions and fuel consumption reductions made possible by hybrid technology.

However, anecdotal evidence suggests, according to the report, that the use of batteries in a hybrid tug system poses an impediment to more widespread adoption.

The document was developed through a partnership with Foss Maritime with funding from MARAD’s Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) Program. The META program’s designed to assist maritime stakeholders in addressing key environmental issues facing the industry.

The full report can be found at http://www.marad.dot.gov/wp-content/uploads/pdf/Hybrid-Battery-Refit-Final-Report-with-pics.pdf.