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ICAO’s New Rules for Lithium Battery Air Shipments

Posted on 3/15/2012 by James Griffin

Last month in Montreal, the Dangerous Goods Panel of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) held a working group to discuss the unique hazards and challenges facing shippers and carriers of lithium batteries. Representatives from 13 countries, alongside various industry and labor organizations, joined to address growing concerns about the safety of these batteries in transport.
 
Citing exponential growth in the number of lithium battery shipments and the increase in energy density of modern batteries, the group feels granting further exceptions for lithium battery shipments under the current regulations is an unsustainable solution. Therefore, ICAO amended the packaging instructions for lithium battery air shipments, and the 54th Edition of IATA’s Dangerous Goods Regulations will reflect these amendments.
 
Large Shipments of Small Lithium Batteries Now Partially Regulated
 
In the past, lithium ion and lithium metal cells and batteries were categorized in two sections: Section I for “large” cells and batteries and Section II for “small” cells and batteries. The criteria for categorizing cells and batteries as “small” appear in the table below. Batteries that do not meet the criteria in the table are considered “large” and are fully regulated.
 
Section Type Lithium Metal Lithium Ion
II (Small) Cell Not more than 1 g Not more than 20 Wh
  Battery Not more than 2 g Not more than 100 Wh
 
In the working group last month, ICAO concluded that quantity limits are necessary to mitigate the risk posed by small batteries shipped in large quantities. ICAO added a third category of batteries, Section (IB), to address this issue.
 
Lithium Batteries Air ShipmentSection IB will include shipments of more than 8 small cells and/or more than 2 small batteries which otherwise meet the criteria of Section II. The new criteria apply only to batteries shipped without equipment and will require lithium battery shippers to update their procedures. While a Shipper’s Declaration is still not required to offer Section IB shipments for transport, alternative documentation will be mandatory and is more than was required for these shipments in the past.
 
UN specification packaging is still not required for shipments of small batteries, regardless of the quantity shipped. However, Section IB shipments must be marked with the Class 9 hazard label AND the Lithium Battery handling label.
 
It is important to note that this change will not affect shipments of very small batteries [not more than 0.3 g lithium content for metal batteries, not more than 2.7 Wh for ion batteries], which are still subject to the packaging instructions for Section II shipments.
 
The packaging instructions for Section II shipments are otherwise unchanged, as long as the quantity of batteries shipped is below the threshold for inclusion in the new Section IB.
 
Certain Small Lithium Batteries Now Approved for Shipment by Mail
 
ICAO and the Universal Postal Union agreed on procedures to allow shipments by mail of small lithium batteries in equipment. Each national authority will implement these new standards in its own way.
 
How do you feel about these changes to ICAO and IATA’s packaging instructions? What effect, if any, will these new lithium battery rules have on your operations? Leave us a comment below, and stay tuned to LionBlog for the latest news on managing your regulatory compliance efforts.
 

Tags: hazmat, IATA, lithium batteries, new rules, shipping

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