Busan works on development of smart container for safe transportation of lithium batteries

At the home of South Korea’s busiest container port, Busan the municipal authorities have chosen the design and development of a “smart” container, which can transport batteries safely, following increasing publicity about the dangers of carrying lithium batteries in containers.

Busan authorities will join hands with South Korea’s largest container manufacturer Vesta, pallet rental company Korea Pallet Pool and Busan Techno Park for the so-called Battery Safe Transport Smart Container and its system technology development.

The parties propose a design featuring fire insulation and flame retardancy, sensors, and shock protection, alongside the development of a blockchain-based transport information system.

With the rising demand for electric vehicles, the number of battery shipments has been rapidly increasing. However, lithium batteries, especially, have been known to burst into flames, causing port authorities and ship operators to require such cargo to be declared dangerous goods. But with real-time monitoring, it is possible to reduce the risk of explosion during transport and to pre-empt fires by developing special container materials to increase insulation and flame retardancy, Busan’s authorities said.

“Busan processes more than 90% of the country’s lithium-ion battery imports and exports, so the development of container technology for safe battery transport is essential. By securing safety, the status of Busan as an international port and logistics city will be enhanced.”

Lee Joon-seung, Busan’s Digital Economy Innovation Office head

Lithium-fuelled fires have worse consequences than others as they are difficult to extinguish, prone to thermal runaway, and present a risk of explosion. And, due to the heat generated, re-ignition after a fire has been extinguished is another major risk.

The growing number of shipments of lithium batteries has led insurer TT Club to last month called for greater vigilance.

“The majority of shippers will take all practicable steps to ensure that their lithium batteries achieve certification and are classified, packaged, packed, labeled, and declared correctly. A small – frankly criminal – minority is motivated to avoid compliance, entering cargo into the supply chain that presents a great risk to all. Once lithium batteries are placed into the intermodal supply chain, there is little opportunity for the cargo to be checked, visually or otherwise, to verify compliance.”

Peregrine Storrs-Fox, director, Risk management

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