Shippers ‘disappointed’ by air freight battery ban

Will Waters | Monday, 29 February 2016

ICAO decision ‘fails to address undeclared battery shipments or counterfeits’, says GSF, which favours wider use of screening technology

International shipper representative organisation the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) has described a ban announced last week on lithium-ion batteries being carried as cargo on passenger aircraft as “disappointing”, arguing that “it goes against previous recommendations and does not address the wider problem of undeclared battery shipments or low-quality counterfeits”.

As reported last week in Lloyd’s Loading List , the UN aviation regulatory and safety body the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has imposed an interim ban from 1 April 2016 on the carriage of all shipments of lithium-ion batteries, which will remain in force until ICAO working groups agree a new lithium-ion battery packaging performance standard. This is expected by 2018 but could go beyond this due to further research work by ICAO and its decision-making procedures, GSF noted.

Rather than a ban, GSF favours the “more proportionate” measures recommended by ICAO’s own expert dangerous goods panel last October, which included a proposal to allow shipment on passenger aircraft if the batteries are only charged to up to 30% of their maximum, plus a limit of one package per consignment for certain types of battery.

The organisation said: “GSF is surprised and disappointed that the ICAO National Council has gone against the recommendations of its own experts and instead instigated a ban which does not tackle the issue of undeclared lithium-ion battery shipments or unscrupulous companies deliberately shipping products with lithium batteries as normal cargo. This problem is compounded if these undeclared batteries are low-quality counterfeits, which are more prone to creating a fire hazard.”

GSF said it was vital that governments “redouble their efforts to crack down on counterfeit battery producers and shippers that fail to comply with the regulations”.

GSF head of policy Alex Veitch said: “GSF supports recommendations made by the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel as this would allow appropriately declared lithium-ion batteries to be safely shipped as cargo on passenger aircraft.”

GSF added that ICAO should investigate the potential of using screening equipment to detect batteries. “This approach would enable airlines to be certain about the lithium-ion batteries carried on their aircraft, allowing them to spot those that haven’t been declared,” it said.

“Feasibility tests on screening carried out, for example, by the UK Civil Aviation Authority have been successful and for safety reasons GSF says ICAO should explore the benefits of the wider adoption of this technology, which could lead to revised standards to require such screening equipment at airports.”

Veitch added: “ICAO must now act rapidly to agree new packaging standards for lithium-ion batteries; we simply cannot wait until 2018 for resolution of the issue. The outright ban on passenger aircraft will cause a major disruption to the global supply chain for essential products vital to international trade”.

The Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) was created in 2006 as the successor to the Tripartite Shippers’ Group, to represent the interests of various national and regional shippers’ organisations in Asia, Europe, North and South America and Africa. The GSF is focused on the impact of commercial developments in the international freight transportation industry and the policy decisions of governments and international organisations that affect shippers and receivers of freight.