Lithium Batteries and air freighters – making transportation safer

There has been countless debate over the last few years in relation to mailing/air freighting devices with rechargeable Lithium ion or Li-ion batteries. It’s just a battery? Why should it be an issue?

Lithium batteries can be found in many electronic devices such as mobiles, laptops and tablets and when transporting them in bulk it becomes a potential issue and a dangerous one at that.

The long and short of it is – once a lithium battery fire starts, due to the ensuing chemical reaction, most conventional fire safety systems just can’t put it out. And that’s the end of that.

As you can imagine airlines and freight organisations are justifiably nervous around shipping these types of batteries, especially in bulk and some airlines and freight forwarders are refusing to ship them altogether.

Increasing concerns over transportation

Alongside this there are increasing concerns that unregulated manufacturers are shipping Lithium ion batteries without fully complying with battery safety testing standards. This is a huge safety risk as they are possibly not manufactured and tested to internationally recognised standards. Lithium batteries also seem to be finding their way into freight systems through being mis-declared or not declared at all, another dangerous practice that could spell disaster.

 Internationally recognised battery testing standards

Also there are a number of internationally recognised battery testing standards, however, for organisations new to battery testing and certification, the sheer number of lithium ion battery standards, governing organisations, and regulations can be overwhelming. There is work afoot to harmonise the standards but it is not clear at the time of writing if and when there will be a global standard for Li-ion shipping.

So does this mean that they shouldn’t be transported at all?

Definitely not… The United Nations issues its own recommendations for the transport of dangerous goods, specifically, UN/DOT 38.3  which covers transportation safety testing for all Lithium metal and Lithium ion cells and batteries.

The test criteria span 8 different tests (T1 – T8) and are all focused on hazards associated with transportation and packaging. There are other international organisations serving the transportation and freight industries which have their own Lithium battery regulations too. Although in most cases these regulations are predominantly based on UN/DOT 38.3 battery safety test criteria, and commonly also rely heavily on adherence to recommended packaging/shipping guidelines.

As an example:

the Royal Mail Dangerous Goods booklet states:

“The equipment sent with cells or batteries must be packed in strong rigid packaging and must be secured against movement within the outer packaging and packed to prevent accidental activation. Lithium battery handling label to be applied (see page 40). The sender’s name and return address must be clearly visible on the outer packaging”

We absolutely agree; potentially the safest way to manage Lithium -ion batteries in transit is to ensure that all Lithium ion batteries as well as all devices containing Lithium ion batteries are packaged to standards that eliminate or at the very least minimise the potential for short circuit and overheating during transit.

We have taken time to consider the issue’s and recommendations. We decided to invest and design all our handset mailing packs   to conform to UN/DOT 38.3 guidelines which in-turn satisfies guidelines issued by all other airlines and parcel and bulk freight organisations. So you can be assured that our handset packaging complies with all issued Li-ion shipping guidelines. Meaning you can transport your handsets with piece of mind.

If you would like further shipping advice into how to transport your lithium battery devices by air then please get in contact with us.