Lithium Batteries on Aircraft
Here’s what you need to know as a shipper and a traveler
One of the major risks associated with the transportation of batteries and battery-powered equipment is the possibility of a short-circuit. This happens as a result of the battery terminals coming into contact with other batteries, metal objects, or conductive surfaces. Packaged batteries or cells must therefore be separated in a way to prevent short circuits and damage to terminals.
What are the various types of lithium batteries?
Lithium batteries fall into two broad classifications: lithium metal batteries and lithium ion batteries. Lithium metal batteries are generally non-rechargeable and contain metallic lithium. Lithium ion batteries are rechargeable and contain lithium which is only present in an ionic form in the electrolyte. Within these two broad classifications there are many different chemistries. For example, within the lithium ion batteries classification, there are lithium polymer, lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4), and lithium air, to name a few.
What has changed?
All standalone lithium batteries are prohibited as cargo on passenger aircraft.
Since lithium metal batteries were already prohibited, the regulation introduced by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – the United Nations agency that regulates the transport of dangerous goods aboard aircraft – means no standalone lithium batteries, in any quantity or packaging, may be shipped as cargo on passenger aircraft.
In 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) urged the global airline community to reconsider allowing batteries on flights because of the fire risk. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FAA are now also banning people from storing lithium ion cells or batteries as cargo on passenger planes. The US Transportation Secretary announced this rule earlier in the year.
These regulations do not affect most consumers outright — you can still bring your spare batteries and gadgets aboard the aircraft in a carry-on bag. But people who buy batteries online might be affected. Phones, external batteries, and electronic devices in general will no longer arrive with a full charge, so as to avoid the risk of fire or explosion that could damage aircraft while in flight.
Can you still ship lithium batteries by air?
Batteries packed with or in equipment may still be shipped compliantly, subject to regulations.
They must be packed in a strong rigid outer packaging unless when contained in equipment, the battery is afforded equivalent protection by the equipment in which it is contained.
ICAO has also mandated that, effective April 1, 2016, standalone lithium ion batteries can only be shipped aboard cargo-only aircraft with a state of charge of 30% or less. In addition, shippers will not be authorized to transport more than one package of standalone lithium ion batteries per consignment.
If you have to ship lithium ion batteries by air that are not packed with equipment, you’ll have to:
- Ship them by cargo aircraft only (if the airline hasn’t filed a variation or implemented an embargo)
- Ensure they are at a state of charge of no more than 30% of capacity
- Pack them separately from everything else
New lithium battery markings and labels
New markings and Class 9 hazmat labels for all lithium battery shipments are required.
FedEx Express is changing its policy on standalone shipments of lithium batteries (i.e. not packed in or with equipment). That means shippers will have to change the way they prepare these shipments if they want to continue using FedEx Express.
Important notes for Philips dictation equipment re-sellers
Speech Processing Solutions is diligent in making sure our products are properly marked and labeled, ensuring we are compliant with all rules and regulations when shipping worldwide. Here are a few specific notes for Philips dictation equipment re-sellers to ensure full compliance with current regulations:
- Ship products like the Philips Pocket Memo, Philips SpeechOne and Philips SpeechMike Premium Air containing Li-Ion batteries only in their original, undamaged packaging, applying sufficient over-pack to reduce the likelihood of damage during transport.
- When booking air freight or using express services, if you ship more than 2 pieces of equipment you must observe packaging guidelines and use the appropriate label according to PI 967 / section II and mention UN3481 on it. Make sure to mention this at the time of booking your shipment. When using ground transportation, no specific communication is required.
- If you have to ship Philips Li-Ion spare batteries, ship them only as originally packed spare batteries. Make sure they are sufficiently over-packed according to PI 965 / section IB and the packaging carries 3 labels according to the guidelines. The batteries must be shipped in one box, with no other products added to the shipment. We recommend using ground transportation, whenever possible. If you really want to use air transportation or express services, please check with the forwarder first, to make sure they accept such cargo and ask for the conditions. Such shipment may incur substantial additional cost and time for safety checks and approvals.
- Never ship any products which contain an obviously defective battery or a single defective battery. Defective batteries must be disposed locally observing legal requirements. Any product returns to Philips must be made observing this rule.
Download the 2019 Lithium Battery Guidance Document here or click https://www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/dgr/Documents/lithium-battery-shipping-guidelines.pdf
Have questions? Let us know in the comments!