Nov 162008

Exploding laptop batteries are bad enough ashore, onboard ship the results can be catastrophic. Indeed, only timely action probably prevented a serious fire aboard the vessel of a member of the International Marine Contractors Association.

The laptop, a Dell Inspiron 6000, which was switched off, was in the accommodation being charged – with the correct charger – when it exploded. Quickly, the laptop owner unplugged the machine as smoke and flames came from it, and lifted it up. Burning lithium-ion batteries fell onto the floor of the cabin, causing some minor damage, were they were finally smothered using a fire extinguisher, and the ship’s fire alarm was triggered.

In this case the laptop was a Dell Inspiron 6000, but battery fire problems have been reported by other manufacturers, so beware.

Do not leave a laptop charging unattended. In days gone by rechargeable batteries had to be fully discharged before being recharged in a single session, By and large this is no longer the case so if you do have to leave your laptop alone you can unplug it while you are away and resume charging when you return.

Check your laptop manufacturer’s website or talk to your supplier about known or suspected battery issues.

Although not an issue in this case, always use the correct proprietary charger. This also applies in the case of cellphones: a number of dangerous cheap look-alike cellphone chargers are in the marketplace that are probably best used to start barbecues, so be warned.

Oh, and although they are called ‘laptops’, if you want to continue to contribute to the gene pool, a lap is the last place you ought to put it.


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