(Please enlighten us with the latest development on Lithium Battery shipments. )

Q.
We have heard that there was an alarming amount of discussion on Lithium Battery shipments at the World Cargo Symposium 2015 held in March 2015. We would like to hear about recent developments. (30 Apr 15)

A.
Yes, at the World Cargo Symposium held in Shanghai, the subject of Lithium Battery shipments occupied the highlight of the symposium. Tests performed by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) concluded that lithium batteries consistently discharge explosive gases when they overheat or short-circuit. The build up of gases, mostly hydrogen, can lead to explosions or fire. In April, The International Coordination Council of Aerospace Industry Association, which represent Boeing and Airbus, called for stronger packaging and handling regulations for batteries being shipped on freighters.

The FAA tests showed that an aircraft’s fire-protection system is unable to suppress or extinguish a fire involving a significant amount of the batteries. Transporting lithium batteries in an aircraft cargo hold was concluded to be an unacceptable risk to the industry. New fire-prevention technology has not yet been developed to protect against the possibility of a lithium battery meltdown. The US Government had long before prohibited carriage of lithium metal batteries on passenger aircraft. (Refer State Variation USG-02). Furthermore, more than 20 major airlines in the world had banned carriage of lithium batteries. Counting minor airlines, a good 50 plus carriers have voiced objection or concern on the carriage of lithium batteries.

Recently, Cathay Pacific joined Qantas, Delta, United and Virgin Australia in banning the shipment of lithium-ion batteries on either freighters or in the bellies of passenger aircraft. The rule only applies to batteries being shipped in bulk, not those that are installed in laptop computers, mobile phones or similar devices. Cathay’s Cargo Director, James Woodrow is also the chair of IATA’s Cargo Committee, where lithium batteries, and their safe transport, were discussed in March at the World Cargo Symposium in Shanghai, and viewed as an industry challenge.


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