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A step forward in lithium battery transportation

Following last year’s special meeting of the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP) and effective January 2013, changes in the lithium batteries regulation have been implemented and incorporated into the 54th edition of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR).

Lithium batteries have become essential to meet 21st century necessities. They are fundamental to watches, mobile phones, computers, and almost every other electronic device currently carried in passengers' baggage and/or cargo on a daily basis. The industry is not considering banning passengers from carrying those items in the cabin. However, due to their potential fire risk, the air transport is subject to strict regulations that need in-depth monitoring. Likewise, the rules for shipping and transporting lithium batteries as cargo must be strictly observed.

Addressing regulatory requirements

In 2012, the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP) convened a working group dedicated to lithium batteries. The Panel members focused on “bulk” shipments of “small” lithium batteries that were largely excepted from the regulatory requirements, including the requirement for a check by the airline of the shipment and for written information to the pilot-in-command on dangerous goods in cargo.

These changes effective since 1 January 2013, primarily concern:

  • New limits on the quantity of lithium metal and lithium ion batteries that may be in a package under the provisions of Section II of the packing instruction for these “small” excepted batteries
  • Introduction of a new Section “IB” for larger quantities of these “small” lithium batteries. Section IB shipments are subject to almost all the regulatory requirements, and include a requirement for the airline to check the shipment for regulatory compliance. These shipments must be part of the information provided to the pilot-in-command

For details, see changes on lithium batteries in the DGR (pdf).

Continued efforts required from all parties

These improvements already acknowledge a very positive progress on safety. To go further and significantly reduce incidents involving lithium batteries, IATA calls for more engagement and communication amongst  lithium batteries’ shippers. Outreach efforts shall be done by all parties to ensure full awareness of the applicable regulations. Regulatory authorities should also undertake more surveillance of shippers and, where necessary, appropriate enforcement actions.

More information available on transport of lithium batteries (including lithium battery guidance document for the 54th edition).

See additional information on ICAO's website.

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