After 34 people were killed when the dive boat Conception caught fire and sank off the coast of California on Labor Day, the U.S. Coast Guard has issued a warning about the use of Lithium-ion batteries aboard commercial vessels. The warning comes the same week as a preliminary report on the deadly fire from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which found that there was no night watchman on duty when the fire broke out.
The Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Information Bulletin issued September 10, 2019, entitled Passenger vessel compliance and operational readiness, outlines six emergency preparedness measures all owners and operators of passenger vessels should immediately review.
- Review routes and conditions and ensure crew members understand their duties.
- Review emergency duties with crew members, ensure emergency escapes are clearly marked and unobstructed.
- Review the logbook and make sure crew training and equipment maintenance are current.
- Ensure vessel is equipped with required firefighting and lifesaving equipment that is in working order.
- Review the overall condition of passenger areas for potential hazards.
- Consider limiting unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of extension cords and power strips to reduce fire hazards.
Former NTSB Managing Director Peter Goelz told USA TODAY that the intensity of the fire could be explained if it were being fed by lithium-ion batteries.
Investigators have not yet determined the source of the fire which broke out around 3:15 a.m. as all 39 people aboard were asleep. A crew member has told investigators that a loud noise woke him and when he went to investigate he saw the fire and woke the captain and three other crew members who were asleep in berths behind the wheelhouse.
The captain made a distress call to the Coast Guard and all crew members attempted to get to the bunkroom below deck, where one crew member and 33 passengers were asleep, but all entries were blocked by fire.
The 34 people who perished in the fire include multiple groups of families and high school students with teachers.
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