MGN 550 MCA Guidance for Lithium-ion Batteries

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MGN 550 - MCA Guidance for Lithium-ion Batteries

The UK MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) has issued MGN 550 (Marine Guidance Note) on, 'Guidance for Safe Design, Installation and Operation of Lithium-ion Batteries.'

In recent years the use of lithium-ion batteries in the marine industry has risen mainly due to improvements in technology and the economic or legal drivers which require the cutting of fuel costs and exhaust emissions.

Lithium-ion and other battery technologies have become viable energy storage options due to their high energy density and capacity for high charge/discharge rates which allow them to be used for hotel or auxiliary loads and low power applications including low speed propulsion.

In a hybrid power system the incorporation of a lithium-ion energy storage system may permit the engines to be shut-down for periods of low energy usage, e.g. when a tug is on-station or when a motor-yacht is travelling at low speeds. This can increase the overall fuel efficiency of a vessel, it can reduce the engine maintenance costs and cut exhaust emissions. It can also reduce noise levels and vibrations.

However, the high energy densities and the alternative materials within these batteries pose their own risks which need to be carefully considered before these batteries are incorporated into a marine structure. This guidance has been developed via formal consultations with the UK marine industry to identify industry best practice. However it is understood that this guidance will not cover every eventuality in design, installation, operation, etc and each case should be considered separately.

There are several areas within a design where the use of risk assessments or hazard identification techniques, such as Failure Modes Effects Analysis (FMEA), should be performed to understand the potential safety issues for personnel, the environment, the vessel and the vessel’s operations.

This guidance does not supersede any other guidance or statutory instruction and should be taken into account when developing designs for lithium-ion battery power systems. This guidance does not replace the need for sound engineering practice nor seamanlike precautions.

Topics Covered by MGN 550 Include:

  • Definitions
  • General Overview
  • Hazards of Lithium-ion Batteries
  • Cell and Battery Handling Procedures
  • Construction of a Battery
  • Battery Management System
  • Battery Installation in a Vessel
  • Battery Operations and Procedures
  • Disassembly and Recycling



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