Building compliance and safety within the supply chain
There have been amendments made recently to IATA regulations for the transportation of hazardous goods by air and there is a need to delve into the implications of these changes to carriers. Lionel Alva
The transportation of hazardous goods is an important aspect of the air cargo business. Since the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the governing body for the transportation of hazardous goods, recent changes in IATA regulations has impacted several carriers engaged in the air cargo business. There is a need to explore the implications of the IATA regulations on the air cargo business. Amendments to the list of dangerous goods include the entry of new hazardous goods, changes in labeling specifications and specific regulations that pertain to the transportation of lithium ion batteries. Changing regulatory models The international community has created a classification system of nine primary classes of dangerous goods. Some classes have been sub-divided in order to adequately describe the nature of the properties of the individual goods. There is a label for each class/division to convey the nature of the hazard. These labels must appear on the outside of the package when it is offered for transport and must remain on the package while it is in transit. They will also be found on most inner packages such as aerosol cans; bottles of bleach, containers of thinners, tins of paint etc that you purchase in the supermarket. “The transportation of hazardous goods in air cargo is heavily regulated by IATA, but within Cargolux, we have our logistics competence teams, our trainers, our e-care programme that specifies what exactly needs to be done on an end-to-end basis; what needs to be done right from pick up to delivery. We must choose the right handling partners at airports, the right trucking partners with the right certifications and we must make sure that our aircrafts are equipped with the right safety measures for each step of the way,” says Kevin Nash, SVP, Global Logistics, Cargolux. There are also very specific rules and regulations specified for different modes of transportation and in various countries, where the regulations in some might be more stringent than those found in other nations. These must be carefully considered as transportation is usually an international activity and this is where the IATA regulations come into play. Effective January 1, 2015, lithium metal batteries shipped without equipment are prohibited on passenger aircrafts. “These are some of the complexities that we have to deal with it on a daily basis and when someone is making the booking, this person gets the right information then we have to assess the goods and check if we have the competency to deliver the goods on a specified route,” observes Nash. Several organisations have also looked towards supply chain re-organisation for the optimised transportation of hazardous goods. Some of the measures taken include a redesign of the supply chain, tamper proof container design to reduce the number of shipments and container miles for highly hazardous materials. Transportation challenges A key challenge for the air cargo business is making logistical decisions based on a global point of view in a fast evolving landscape. In an international market several factors come into play that adds to the logistics challenge. Furthermore, IATA regulations and various permissions require greater lead times that can affect the working of an optimised supply chain. “When carrying dangerous goods that are normally forbidden for transport by air, the application for exemptions to the IATA regulations and the subsequent overflight permission often require considerable lead time, sometimes more than the client anticipates,” informs Matthew Thear, Customer Services Manager, Ruslan International. There can be marked differences from one application to the next – even between neighbouring countries – which can make planning sufficient lead time problematic. This can certainly affect the working of a supply chain and requires a fair degree of planning. However, these problems can be overcome with harmonised regulations for classification and labelling will be implemented in the international agreements for each transport mode during this strategy period. “On the acceptance process of dangerous goods documentation, wrong/missing information given about content and class of the material could be one of the challenges that can be faced in the transportation of hazardous materials. Secondly, due to lack of MSDS (Material Safety Date Sheet) form, cargos of dangerous goods cannot be dispatched,” observes Halit Anlatan, vice president, cargo – marketing and sales, Turkish Airlines. This is especially in the context of certain goods, like bulk lithium batteries, there are problems with misrepresentation on the label since most airlines do not have the necessary equipment or technology to check if the batteries comply with regulations and there is no misrepresentation. The provisions applicable to portable electronic devices, including medical devices containing lithium batteries and spare batteries have been restructured by the IATA to set the requirements out in three parts: 1. Spare lithium batteries above a specified size, which are permitted only with the approval of the operator, and that must be in carry-on baggage; 2. Lithium battery powered electronic devices containing batteries above a specified size, which are permitted only with the approval of the operator 3. Portable electronic devices (PED) and spare batteries for such devices where the batteries are at or below the specified size which are permitted without operator approval. PED may be in checked or carryon baggage. All spare batteries must be in carry-on baggage. IATA regulations postulate new special provision assigned against UN 3090 lithium metal batteries to identify that lithium metal batteries may be carried on a passenger aircraft subject to specific limitations on the size and quantity of lithium metal batteries in a package and per consignment. The detail of these limitations are set out in the supplement to the ICAO Technical Instructions. “In 2010, we banned the bulk shipment of lithium ion batteries. When lithium batteries burn, and they do burn at something like 1200 degrees, it is extremely difficult, from a risk point of view, to put out a fire like this,” asserts Nash. Nevertheless, freighter operators still perceive lithium batteries as being a good opportunity for their business operations and can help in the transportation of such goods. “We see Lithium batteries as a good opportunity for us being a freighter operator since it is problematic for passenger planes. When we build the operations structure in our own ground handler and we put a lot of focus on special cargo and dangerous good is a part of it. So when we take a Hazmat or dangerous goods shipment then we look at it from the spectrum of services that we provide,” asserts Ori Gover, VP marketing, Cal Cargo. However, since the transportation of hazardous goods is not a recent phenomenon and several of its recent challenges are relegated to regulations and to certain new materials like lithium batters, the most critical component is skilled labor. “While regulations and certain norms have seen change, it is the human factor that assumes significance. Handlers have to deal with it in a specific way. The attention and special care is the most critical factor. It is the implementation of training practices in day to day practices for handling hazardous goods since they require special care,” concludes Gover.