(Per Addendum II to DGR 55 Edition, ERG code for Lithium Ion Batteries was relaxed to 9F. Why is this?)

Q.
Addendum II issued on 6 June 2014 to IATA DGR 55 Edition relaxed the ERG code for UN 3480 and UN 3481 Lithium ion batteries from “9FZ” to “9F”. The ERG code for Lithium Metal Batteries were left unchanged as “9FZ”. Does this mean that for lithium ion battery fire, the captain need not consider landing immediately? I was told Halon fire extinguishers available on the aircraft were not effective for lithium fires. I was also told water was the best effective agent to combat lithium fires. Why is the ERG code left unchanged as “9FZ” for lithium metal fires? Kindly explain. (30 Jun 14)

A.
The letter “F” in the ERG code means “Flammable” and the letter “Z” means “Aircraft cargo fire suppression system may not extinguish or contain the fire. Consider landing immediately”. At the 24th meeting of the ICAO DGP (Dangerous Goods Panel) held in Montreal on 28 Oct. through 8 Nov. 2013, this subject was discussed. Halon was shown to be ineffective in suppressing a lithium metal fire, but it was effective in suppressing a lithium ion fire and preventing the spread of fire to adjacent combustible material. It was suggested that lithium ion fires were similar to flammable fires and therefore the Drill Code “9F” would be more appropriate. Supporting opinions were that it will facilitate transport and provide comfort to the flight crew in knowing that they had batteries on board that could be dealt with in the event of a fire. Those against were insisting that the absence of letter “Z” will eliminate the value of water as the best agent. Majority agreed that “9F” was more appropriate. For lithium metal fires, “9FZ” was retained.


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