'The air cargo industry should also encourage more awareness, create more visibility, improve the level of competency and quality management'

Dmitriy Kulish, Director for Hi-Tech and Automotive, Volga-Dnepr Group which also has the scheduled air cargo carrier AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC) talks about how the industry can build safety into its DNA by basing it on the fundamentals of awareness, compliance and responsibility going forward

The air cargo industry should also encourage more awareness, create more visibility, improve the level of competency and quality management
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Dmitriy Kulish is the Director for Hi-Tech and Automotive, Volga-Dnepr Group

Have you ever had to terminate your contract or end a working relationship with any of your stakeholders owing to non-compliance in ensuring the transportation of Dangerous goods- especially lithium batteries?
Transportation of lithium batteries is not an easy task, but, with the right procedures in place, it is manageable and does not seem like a logistics hurdle. When it comes to the transportation of dangerous goods safety is the number one priority for all the supply chain stakeholders. We need to make sure that during the transportation process no harm is done to any party involved in it – be it on the ground or up in the air. That said, we have stringent risk assessment procedures in place and every stakeholder is checked across multiple areas to guarantee dangerous goods compliance. For the past years, aviation authorities developed numerous regulations to ensure safe and secure transportation of lithium batteries. Volga-Dnepr Group strictly complies to all regulatory standards and expects the same from its partners. In case, upon internal assessment we understand that the flight safety might be jeopardized then we are open to sharing this information with our potential customers and offer dedicated solutions how we could assist – advisory support, training, experience sharing, etc. In any case, if the risk is high we as a carrier leave the right to impose an embargo for transportation.

How do you handle instances of poor and unsafe packaging and inaccurate declaration when it comes to lithium batteries shipment by your customers?
We offer as much help prior to shipment as we can – advisory support, assistance with documents, provision of the current regulations and requirements. By doing this, we expect no cases of poor or unsafe packaging. The Covid-19 affected a lot of industries to a certain extent, although what we managed to achieve in logistics is more collaboration which eliminates the mistakes upon transportation and creates a more transparent environment.

Furthermore, we keep on paying particular attention to additional safety control measures upon lithium batteries' transportation, carry out risk assessment analysis on a yearly basis and make a list of preventative actions to minimize the risks. Lithium batteries cause spontaneous ignition and uncontrollable fire. Un- and mis-declaration, wrong packaging, improper handling, absence of labeling lead at least to refusal in transportation. In the worst cases, this may even cause aviation accidents.

To eliminate such mistakes and to provide safe transportation every participant of the transportation process should follow simple rules:
-Be responsible. Only the commitment of all stakeholders involved in the transportation process can ensure safe and secure transportation.
-Be aware of counterfeit or damaged products.
-Be aware of State of Charge (SoC). Make sure your standalone batteries have SoC less than 30%. A higher charge can lead to unpredictable consequences.
-Declare properly. Proper documentation provides transparency of the process and appropriate procedures on board.
-Pack and label properly. Strictly follow packing instructions for your batteries in accordance with TI ICAO/ DGR IATA
-Training is crucial. Ensure people working with dangerous goods are trained and have valid certificates
-Stay informed. Regulations are very dynamic – be informed of international, regional rules and airline variations.

What are the standard operating procedures that the company follows while transporting lithium batteries specifically?
To provide safe transportation of lithium batteries AirBridgeCargo offers:
1. Full compliance with IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and ICAO Technical Instructions Doc 9284 AN/905, as well as regulations issued by aviation authorities of various countries
2. Annual risk assessment analysis, which covers a) additional company variations to check battery quality before transportation, b) workshops and training sessions with stakeholders for networking, peer-learning, and 'educational' purposes, c) cooperation with trustworthy and reliable partners with advice on the correct actions to be taken while preparing their dangerous goods for carriage (declaration, packaging, labelling, etc). Furthermore, we make an internal assessment of all service providers involved in the DG transportation process to make sure that they are fully compliant with air freight requirements and understand them.
3. Usage of a modern fleet of freighters (Boeing 747F, Boeing 777F) with additional protective equipment to guarantee flight safety, such as fire-containment covers, Emergency Vision Assurance System (EVAS) (which provides a clear space of air through which a pilot can see flight instruments and out the front windshield for landing the plane in the event of in cockpit smoke)
4. The dedicated team of qualified and experienced specialists who are ready to offer advisory support for the preparation of lithium batteries

What steps are you taking to ensure the safe and secure transport of lithium batteries under your watch? Are you undertaking any presentations, training sessions, or holding workshops to sensitize your staff to the dangers of mishandling or not sticking to regulations enforced by several authorities on the transportation of dangerous goods like lithium batteries? Do you have a separate team or dedicated staff that looks into this aspect of air cargo? If so, do mention what have you done in this regard in detail.
As stated above, we take a multifaceted approach towards safety upon lithium batteries transportation. We hold regular meetings with our partners and explain all the issues, go through the latest updates and offer detailed and clear guidelines. On top of this, during the pandemic, we have been able to upscale our online communications and embrace customers from various regions through easy and comfortable online training sessions.

What is the volume of dangerous goods including lithium batteries handled by Volga Dnepr in a year? And of this volume, what would be the share of lithium batteries carried (in percentage/share)?
In 2021 Volga-Dnepr Group transported over 100,000 tonnes of dangerous goods cargo, which is around 15% of the total cargo carried. CAO (cargo aircraft only) lithium batteries accounted for over 9,000 tonnes, which is 1.3%.

According to you, what would be a way for all of the industry (including cargo terminal operators, shippers, freight forwarders, and airlines) to ensure there is greater compliance to safety regulations when it comes to transporting Lithium battery shipments so that there are fewer accidents owing to non-compliance taking place in the future?
We believe that it comes from the DNA of stakeholders. They should understand that flight safety is a number one priority, because in case of any accident the damage could be really harmful to all the participants of the supply chain. The air cargo industry should also encourage more awareness, create more visibility, improve the level of competency and quality management. Awareness. Compliance. Responsibility.

#SafetoFly #LithiumSafe #SafeLithiumshipments



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