Over the years, a number of incidents where overheated lithium ion and lithium metal batteries have caused smoking packages and fires onboard cargo and passenger aircraft has led to stricter and increasingly complex shipping regulations.
Regulatory bodies such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) have all weighed in on the subject at one time or another. And now with a series of new guidelines proposed by the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP) at their 25th annual meeting in Montreal this October - transportinglithium batteries is likely to get even more complicated.
At a high level, the ICAO DGP is proposing that:
- Transporting lithium ion batteries as cargo on passenger planes be prohibited altogether Section II of Packing Instructions (PI) 965 and 968 be deleted
- Lithium ion batteries only be shipped by air when state of charge (SoC) is at 30% or less
- Eliminating allowances for lithium ion and lithium metal batteries not be placed in an overpack
The ICAO DGP proposals follow tests conducted by the FAA Technical Center that found the fire suppression agent used in passenger aircraft cargo compartments might not be effective for fires “…involving large quantities of lithium ion cells.”
The ICAO and IATA define the family of lithium batteries as those that have different chemistries and are made up of many types of cathodes and electrolytes. There are two types of lithium batteries that are considered dangerous goods:
- Rechargeable lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries lose their charge over time and need to be plugged into a charger
- Non-rechargeable, or primary, lithium metal and lithium alloy batteries keep their charge and do not require frequent recharging
If approved, the proposed changes could go into effect on 1 April 2016 in the form of an addendum to the 2015-2016 edition of the ICAO Technical Instructions. For more detailed information, visit http://www.iata.org/lithiumbatteries http://www.iata.org/lithiumbatteries" .