Rogue companies that flout regulations aimed at making the transportation of lithium-ion batteries safer continue to mar the industry’s reputation.
Mislabelled and misdeclared shipments of batteries remain the biggest threat when transporting lithium-ion batteries by air, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has told BEST.
The concerns come as companies flout rules introduced in 2016 by the United Nations that banned lithium-ion batteries being transported on passenger planes or above 30% state-of-charge on cargo planes— a move mirrored by US aviation organisations in February 2019.
Last month BEST reported how falsely reported lithium-ion batteries started a fire on a cargo ship owned by China Ocean Shipping Company.
While big companies, such as Tier 1 manufacturers, comply with the changes in regulations smaller firms trying to save money are not so honest.
Airlines are also stopped from reporting blacklisted companies found breaching shipping regulations because of anti-competitive behaviour. To combat this, IATA is now sharing information on rogue companies reported to them by airlines.
David Brennan, IATA’s assistant director cargo safety & standards, told BEST: “The challenge is lithium-ion, as an energy source, is growing massively to the point now where it is in almost all consumer products, from mobile phones to portable power tools.
“The volume of demand is going up and that’s created its own issues whereby people want to get in on the business and see an opportunity to sell lower quality batteries.
“These are the people who don’t comply with test regulations and standards when placing them in transport because it costs money so people don’t bother, and that is the real risk.”
“One example is when an air transport cargo was declared as children’s toys and clothes and it was found later it was actually two tonnes of mobile phone batteries.”
The other driver is e-commerce platforms where batteries are sold, which results in companies sending batteries through the mail, which is forbidden.
An example of this is when people under declare the wattage of the cells, said Brennan. Batteries over 100Wh have to comply with shipping regulations.
In 2016, the IATA and battery associations in the US and Europe including PRBA, RECHARGE, the Global Shippers Forum and the International Air Cargo Association called for lithium battery safety regulations to be enforced at the point of origin including the initial shipper and the battery manufacturer.
The organisations also called for implementation of cooperative enforcement initiatives between jurisdictions to address situations, where lithium batteries manufactured in one state are driven over a border to be flown from another state.
The global associations called for “significant fines and custodial sentences to be imposed on those who circumvent the regulations”.