Air Freight: Stricter Regulation for the transport of Lithium Batteries

Air Freight: Stricter Regulation for the Transport of Lithium Batteries

Worldwide – Subsequent to moves made in February when the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Governing Council announced an interim ban on all shipments of lithium-ion batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft, six of the major players concerned with the hazards of transporting the volatile items as air freight have written to key government and aviation industry figures across the world calling for international safety regulations to be enforced at the point of origin by both shippers and battery manufacturers.

The joint letter to Ministers of Trade, Industry and Transport, and Directors of Civil Aviation in the world’s largest lithium battery manufacturing and export countries was signed by IATA, the US Rechargeable Battery Association (PRBA), the European Advanced Rechargeable and Lithium Battery Association (RECHARGE), the Global Shippers Forum (GSF) and the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA). The letter also calls for the implementation of cooperative enforcement initiatives between jurisdictions to address situations, where lithium batteries manufactured in one state are driven over a border to be flown from another. The global associations also called for significant fines and custodial sentences to be imposed on those who circumvent the regulations.

As we have pointed out many times the evidence that the batteries continue to contribute to disasters in the air is now irrefutable and the pressure on airlines to unilaterally ban all forms of lithium battery is becoming overwhelming. The signatories of this latest letter say a ban will add to the cost of global supply chains and consumer goods, while encouraging those who flout the law to increase mislabelling of batteries, further increasing safety and security risks. Tony Tyler IATA’s Director General and CEO commented:

“Safety is aviation’s top priority. Airlines, shippers and manufacturers have worked hard to establish rules that ensure lithium batteries can be carried safely. But the rules are only effective if they are enforced and backed-up by significant penalties. Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for regulating rogue producers and exporters. Any flagrant abuses of dangerous goods shipping regulations, which place aircraft and passenger safety at risk, must be criminalised.”

The battery makers themselves understand the result of an all-out ban on carriage by air and George A. Kerchner, Executive Director of PRBA, which represents most of the world’s largest manufacturers of lithium ion and lithium metal batteries, and manufacturers of products powered by these batteries said:

“The actions of a minority threaten to undermine confidence in legitimate battery and product manufacturers. This a matter of deep concern for our members. A ban on the shipment of lithium ion batteries aboard aircraft would put lives at risk by slowing delivery of life-critical and life–enhancing medical equipment and jeopardise the security of many countries because a large number of military applications are powered by lithium batteries.”

The IATA and the PRBA have repeatedly called upon governments to address the danger posed by the wilful disregard of the international regulations by rogue manufacturers and shippers and to close existing legal loopholes that prevent prosecutions of serial offenders. Lack of enforcement is increasing pressure on airlines and regulators to unilaterally ban all forms of lithium battery shipments from aircraft. This would add to the cost of global supply chains and consumer goods, and encourage those who flout the law to simply increase mislabelling of batteries, further increasing safety and security risks. GSF concurred with this view and Alex Veitch, the FTA’s Head of Global Policy, said:

“We support the airline and lithium battery industries’ view that existing regulations, if adhered to, achieve an acceptable level of safety for the transport of lithium batteries by air. These rules must be effectively implemented and enforced to prevent aircraft and passengers being put in danger. Government authorities must take responsibility for those producers and exporters who flout the regulations and must issue tough criminal penalties to discourage others.

”A ban on all shipping by air would unnecessarily penalise legitimate battery and product manufacturers and could seriously damage their businesses. The biggest danger lies with the growth in counterfeit and non-compliant batteries that are being produced by unlicensed and unregulated manufacturers. These are rarely declared appropriately and tackling this problem requires international cooperation and coordination on a grand scale.”

Photo: It’s not just planes – this Tesla is one of several which have caught fire with investigations into the accidents ongoing.