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New regulations on the shipping of lithium by air Print E-mail
Saturday, 23 July 2016 13:55

Demand for lithium remains strong and does present challenges. ICAO has now responded to this risk and tightened the regulations on the shipping of lithium by air from 01.04.2016 on.

 Demand for lithium, the white gold of the Andes, remains strong as the metal delivers an unprecedented energy density compared to all metals previously used in batteries. As lithium is the lightest metal found on Earth, even floating on water, it allows extremely lightweight cells to be manufactured. This makes lithium batteries very attractive for a wide range of applications.

The rise in demand for lithium batteries does present challenges, not least for all transport companies. This is because particularly when they are totally discharged or overcharged, lithium cells can pose a risk, which can even result in a fire in the worst case scenario. For this reason, particular care must be applied during the entire manufacturing process, during handling and, of course, also during the transportation of lithium batteries.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has now responded to this risk and tightened the regulations applying to international transportation of lithium batteries by air. Since 01.04.2016, manufacturers of lithium batteries or of products powered by a lithium energy source must observe the following rules:

Ban on lithium batteries in passenger aircraft: Lithium batteries can no longer be transported as cargo on passenger aircraft. This ban does not apply to lithium batteries contained in or packed with equipment. A photographer whose digital cameras are powered by lithium batteries can continue to send his or her equipment as cargo, as the batteries are “contained in the equipment” in this case. However, packages that only contain lithium batteries must in future always carry the label “Cargo Aircraft Only”.

Restriction regarding state of charge: One particularly noteworthy point applicable to lithium batteries since 01.04.2016 is the state of charge when shipping cells or batteries by themselves. The ICAO has thus restricted the state of charge (SoC) of lithium cells to a maximum 30 %. Lithium batteries can only be shipped by airfreight if their state of charge does not exceed 30 %. Once again, this regulation does not apply to batteries that are contained in or packed with equipment. In that case, the state of charge is not defined.

Quantity restriction: When batteries are shipped by themselves, the limit is 8 cells or 2 batteries per package (per airway bill) pursuant to IATA-DGR Packing Instruction 965 II.

Restriction regarding overpacks: Pursuant to PI965 II, these small packages could be combined in an overpack in the past; this is now no longer possible. 

Separate shipping of batteries: Companies that wish to ship packages containing only lithium batteries must send these separately from other shipped goods.

Exceptions applicable to states, aviation companies and shipping companies: There are now over 100 exceptions to the legal regulations that need to be observed in place

Battery experts from Jauch Quartz GmbH have been involved in customer-specific projects for over 30 years. The extensive knowhow they acquired over this time also covers the transportation of lithium batteries. Specialists who have undergone IATA PC1 and PC2 training courses assist manufacturers of battery-powered products throughout the entire project phase, including the critical transportation of the battery-powered products to their destination. There are now 240 different options to ship lithium cells and batteries covering all means of transportation.


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