ICAO Panel Recommends Ban on Lithium Battery Shipments on Passenger Aircraft

Posted on 1/28/2016 by Roger Marks

The Associated Press reports that on Wednesday, January 27, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) air navigation commission officially recommended an outright ban on rechargeable lithium batteries transported as cargo on passenger aircraft. Despite bolstering the lithium battery packaging, labeling, and other safety requirements for 2016, ICAO has so far declined to completely ban lithium batteries on passenger aircraft.
The ICAO panel’s recommendation is not an official rulemaking, but could lead to a ban being approved and in effect as early as April 1 this year.  

The recommended ban is the latest development in the ongoing efforts of regulators and international safety organizations to mitigate the unique hazards posed by lithium batteries in transit. Just last week, ICAO announced an addendum to its hazmat air shipping rules which included updated standards for lithium batteries. These updates were incorporated via Addendum into the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) 57th edition Dangerous Goods Regulations, the manual followed by hazmat air shippers worldwide.

The updated IATA lithium battery air requirements—mandatory starting April 1, 2016—include a 30% limit on state-of-charge and additional limits on the number of batteries and packages allowed per shipment.

Changing rules for lithium battery air shipments

The US DOT updated its own lithium battery shipping rules in 2015, to harmonize them with international requirements. The latest new requirements for US ground shippers went into effect on August 7, 2015. Further revisions are likely, as concern grows and international regulations continue to change.

A damaged, defective, or improperly packaged lithium battery can experience “thermal runaway”—rapid increases in heat that can result in explosions, fires, and emergencies in transit. To read more about the science how lithium batteries become a workplace and transport hazard—and tips for fighting lithium battery fires—click here.  

It is unclear whether a passenger aircraft ban will be adopted by ICAO. Industry group have resisted the idea of a ban in the past and will likely advocate against putting one in place now.  

DOT, IATA, and IMO Lithium Battery Shipper Training

To help lithium battery shippers keep ground, air, and vessel shipments in compliance, the Shipping Lithium Batteries Online Course covers the 2016 DOT, IATA, and IMO regulations through interactive, engaging lessons and exercises. Get up to speed with the new rules and meet your two- or three-year hazmat certification requirement for shipping lithium batteries Sign up now.

For a live, expert-led update on the latest rules for shipping lithium batteries, join a Lion instructor for the Shipping Lithium Batteries Webinar on February 11, from 1 to 3 p.m. ET.

Tags: hazmat, IATA, lithium batteries, shipping

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