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Airlines challenge lithium ion battery shipments

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

IATA is working with PRBA, the US Rechargeable Battery Association, RECHARGE, the European Advanced Rechargeable and Lithium Battery Association, the Global Shippers Forum (GSF) and the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) to call for lithium battery safety regulations to be enforced at the point of origin including the initial shipper and the battery manufacturer. This is widely acknowledged as aimed at Chinese suppliers.

The move comes as new regulations come into force to prevent fires on aircraft. 

The groups have also called for cooperation between governments to enforce the new regulations, as batteries made in one state can be driven over a border to be flown from another state to avoid them. The global associations also called for significant fines and prison for those who circumvent the regulations, saying otherwise shipment of lithium batteries could be banned.

“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,” said said Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of IATA which represents 265 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic. “Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for regulating rogue producers and exporters. Flagrant abuses of dangerous goods shipping regulations, which place aircraft and passenger safety at risk, must be criminalized.”

“The actions of a minority threaten to undermine confidence in legitimate battery and product manufacturers. This a matter of deep concern for our members,” said George Kerchner, Executive Director of PRBA which represents most of the world’s largest manufacturers of lithium ion and lithium metal batteries.

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 increase mislabelling of batteries, further increasing safety and security risks. “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 jeopardize the security of many countries because a large number of military applications are powered by lithium batteries,” said Kerchner.


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