A step forward in lithium battery transportation

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News reports on lithium batteries being stored in the cargo hold are currently being investigated as a potential cause for the disappearance of Malaysian Air MH370. The UK’s air safety regulator Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has repeatedly warned of the potential hazards of carrying fake or erroneously packed batteries from cameras and other electronics devices on aircraft.

According to figures released by America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), since March 1991 until February 2014, there have been at least 141 ‘air incidents’, which have caused involve smoke, fire, extreme heat or explosion, where batteries have been carried as aviation cargo or passenger baggage.

“Of course, safety is always uppermost in our minds. We have prioritized the lithium battery issue, preparing guidance for shippers so that they are well-informed about when and how lithium batteries can be safely shipped. Following the tragic loss of the National Air Cargo 747 in April last year, we have worked closely with the FAA to agree on new ULD regulations. These are proportionate and reasonable regulations that will help raise the consistency of safety for the carriage of heavy cargo. Hopefully, we will never see another accident of that kind again,” said Des Vertannes, IATA’s global head of cargo, while addressing the World Cargo Symposium 2014 earlier this week at Los Angeles.

The estimated failure rate of Li-ion is one per 10 million. Studies conducted on the recorded incidents of transporting batteries by air reveals that most failures occurred due to inappropriate packaging or handling, which caused damage or electrical short. Most incidents happened at airports or in cargo hubs. Problem batteries include primary lithium (lithium-metal), lead, nickel and alkaline systems, and not just lithium-ion, as is perceived. Newer consumer products have very few surprise failures caused by Li-ion batteries.

In an attempt to provide a comprehensive guidance on how to safely ship lithium batteries and products containing lithium batteries, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the release of the first edition of the Lithium Battery Shipping Guidelines (LBSG). The LBSG brings together all of the relevant content of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, as well as detailed examples on packing, marking, labeling and documentation.

Lithium batteries are safe to transport provided that they are designed, tested, manufactured and packaged in accordance with the global transport safety standards. Therefore, it is essential that shippers comply with the relevant dangerous goods regulations to meet their safety obligations.

The LBSG, which is a complete guide for shippers, is being released as a CD-ROM with an embedded, interactive PDF file enabling users to bookmark frequently referenced passages and annotate the manual to customize it to their own unique processes.

The guide would provide an overview of the regulatory issues, classification, parking instructions with animated packing examples, marking and labeling diagrams, documentation examples along with a sample checklist for shippers and freight forwarders.

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