Dangerous Goods Panel Updates Recommendations for Lithium Batteries

The International Civil Air Organization’s (ICAO) Dangerous Goods Panel recently met from October 19 to October 30 in Montreal, Quebec, where they considered several proposals to address safety concerns related to the carriage of lithium batteries as air cargo. The discussions on this issue come in response to tests conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Technical Center, which indicate that Halon (the fire suppression agent used in passenger aircraft cargo compartments) may not be capable of suppressing a fire involving large quantities of lithium ion batteries. The recommendations are intended to take effect in 2016.

As a result of the FAA tests, major aircraft manufacturers recommended that aircraft operators not ship lithium ion batteries as cargo on passenger planes, and that operators conduct a safety risk assessment to establish appropriate risk mitigation plans.

The Dangerous Goods Panel considered the total prohibition of carrying lithium ion batteries as cargo, making changes to packing instructions, and restricting the state of charge of lithium batteries in order to reduce dangers during shipment. Following significant discussion, the panel recommended:

1) Lithium ion cells and batteries should be offered for transport at a state of charge of 30% or less, while cells and batteries with a charge of more than 30% require approval from the State of Origin and State of Operator prior to shipment.

2) Shippers should not be permitted to present more than one package prepared with lithium ion or lithium metal cells or batteries charged at or below 30%, and if the package is placed into an overpack then the lithium battery handling label must be clearly visible or affixed on the outside of the overpack.

3) Packages prepared according to this additional guidance must be offered to the aircraft operator separately from other cargo and must not be loaded onto a unit load device (ULD) before it is offered to the operator