Executive Briefings

Better Oversight - Not a Ban - Needed for Lithium-Ion Battery Cargo on Planes

There is no doubt that lithium-ion batteries, when packed together without the proper packaging and handling precautions, can certainly be dangerous. In 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration applied heat to a container packed with 5,000 lithium-ion batteries that resulted in a thermal runaway and subsequent explosion of flammable gases emitted within the container. Even a favorite fire suppressant, when used, was ineffective in extinguishing the fire. The danger appears to be inherent in all aircraft configurations, passenger or all-cargo.

Responding to this evidence, many airlines, including U.S. carriers, voluntarily stopped shipping lithium-ion batteries on their passenger planes.

The FAA's testing has shown that the risk of lithium-ion battery fires can diminish if the devices are charged only up to 30 percent of their maximum. Perhaps with this in mind, the solution lies in going a step further and shipping the batteries with an even lower charge using existing packaging and packing methods. But it should not stop there.

The private sector, including lithium battery manufacturers working with ICAO and governments, must develop strict certification programs for those making, shipping and handling these cells. Once in effect, vigorous worldwide government oversight of the supply chain must enforce these mutually agreed upon standards. Countries must fulfill a vital role by investing in research and development of lithium battery detection technology and even employing canine screening to find undeclared batteries before they reach the plane.

It is important that governments increase efforts to crack down on battery counterfeiters and those who fail to comply with these enhanced shipping regulations. Others around the world should sanction authorities that fail to enforce global standards through the imposition of trade restrictions designed to correct such negligent behavior. An industry-initiated ban is no substitute for effective government oversight and vigorous enforcement allowing people and batteries to fly safely together.

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Responding to this evidence, many airlines, including U.S. carriers, voluntarily stopped shipping lithium-ion batteries on their passenger planes.

The FAA's testing has shown that the risk of lithium-ion battery fires can diminish if the devices are charged only up to 30 percent of their maximum. Perhaps with this in mind, the solution lies in going a step further and shipping the batteries with an even lower charge using existing packaging and packing methods. But it should not stop there.

The private sector, including lithium battery manufacturers working with ICAO and governments, must develop strict certification programs for those making, shipping and handling these cells. Once in effect, vigorous worldwide government oversight of the supply chain must enforce these mutually agreed upon standards. Countries must fulfill a vital role by investing in research and development of lithium battery detection technology and even employing canine screening to find undeclared batteries before they reach the plane.

It is important that governments increase efforts to crack down on battery counterfeiters and those who fail to comply with these enhanced shipping regulations. Others around the world should sanction authorities that fail to enforce global standards through the imposition of trade restrictions designed to correct such negligent behavior. An industry-initiated ban is no substitute for effective government oversight and vigorous enforcement allowing people and batteries to fly safely together.

Read Full Article