With effect from April 2016, shippers would need to take note of additional IATA regulations concerning the airfreight of lithium cells and batteries. The rules governing the transport of such cargo has had a history of being hotly debated, thanks to lithium’s naturally high reactivity levels causing the element to be prone to emitting fumes and overheating, leading to disastrous consequences.

In 2010, a UPS cargo plane developed an in-flight fire and crashed in Dubai, killing both crew members. The ensuing investigation found that a large quantity of lithium ion batteries was part of its cargo. In 2014, Boeing grounded its entire fleet of 787 Dreamliner planes after the lithium batteries on two of the aircraft caught fire.

The ubiquity of lithium cells and batteries suggest that a total ban on their transport is nigh-impossible. Late last year, a UN aviation panel rejected a proposed ban on the cargo, despite calls to do so by US regulators. Lithium cells and batteries can be found in almost any portable electronic device, ranging from consumer products such as thermometers, laptops and cameras to automated heavy industrial equipment. An estimated 5 billion lithium ion batteries and 2.5 billion lithium metal batteries are manufactured each year, and airfreight plays a critical role in their shipping and transport around the globe.

In general, the new regulations require lithium ion cells and batteries for transport to be at a state of charge(SoC) not to exceed 30% of their rated design capacity. This minimizes the risk of overheating associated with excessive discharging and charging and any cargo to be excepted from this rule would have to approved by the relevant authorities.

DG Packaging deals with the packing and transport of lithium ion and metal batteries on a daily basis, with years of experience in safety and compliance of the international transport of dangerous goods. If you require advice regarding the shipping of your product, feel free to contact our representatives and we’ll be more than happy to assist you.

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