The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on governments to further support the safe carriage of lithium batteries by developing and implementing global standards for screening, fire-testing, and incident information sharing.
As with many products shipped by air, effective standards, globally implemented, are needed to ensure safety. The challenge is the rapid increase in global demand of lithium batteries (the market is growing 30% annually) bringing many new shippers into air cargo supply chains. A critical risk that is evolving, for example, concerns incidents of undeclared or mis-declared shipments.
IATA has long called for governments to step-up enforcement of safety regulation for the transport of lithium batteries. This should include stiffer penalties for rogue shippers and the criminalization of egregious or willful offenses. IATA asked governments to shore up those activities with additional measures:
- Development of safety-related screening standards and processes for lithium batteries
Development of specific standards and processes by governments to support the safe transport of lithium batteries, like those that exist for air cargo security, will help provide an efficient process for compliant shippers of lithium batteries. It is critical that these standards and processes be outcome based and globally harmonized.
- Development and implementation of a fire-testing standard that addresses lithium battery fire containment
Governments should develop a testing standard for fires involving lithium batteries to evaluate supplementary protection measures over and above the existing cargo compartment fire suppression systems.
- Enhance safety data collection and sharing information between governments
Safety data is critical to understanding and managing lithium battery risks effectively. Without sufficient relevant data there is little ability to understand the effectiveness of any measures. Better information sharing and coordination on lithium battery incidents among governments and with the industry is essential to help managing lithium battery risks effectively.
These measures would support significant initiatives by airlines, shippers, and manufacturers to ensure lithium batteries can be carried safely. Actions have included:
- Updates to the Dangerous Goods Regulations and the development of supplementary guidance material,
- The launch of a Dangerous Goods Occurrence Reporting Alert System that provides a mechanism for airlines to share information on events involving undeclared or misdeclared dangerous goods,
- The development of a Safety Risk Management Framework specifically for the carriage of lithium batteries.
- The launch of CEIV Lithium Batteries to improve the safe handling and transport of lithium batteries across the supply chain.
“Airlines, shippers, manufacturers, and governments all want to ensure the safe transport of lithium batteries by air. It’s a joint responsibility. The industry is raising the bar to consistently apply existing standards and share critical information on rogue shippers. But there are some areas where the leadership of governments is critical. Stronger enforcement of existing regulations and the criminalization of abuses will send a strong signal to rogue shippers. And the accelerated development of standards for screening, information exchange, and fire containment will give the industry even more effective tools to work with,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General