Cathay Pacific issues latest ban on lithium batteries

747-400 BCF First Flight TakeoffAnother lithium domino falls.

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 being used in laptop computers, mobile phones or similar devices.

JOC.com reported that Cathay’s cargo director, James Woodrow, made the announcement to his staff in the carrier’s monthly newsletter. Woodrow is also the chair of IATA’s cargo committee, where lithium batteries, and their safe transport, were discussed last month at the World Cargo Symposium in Shanghai, and viewed as an industry challenge.

Last month, The International Coordination Council of Aerospace Industry Associations, which represents Boeing and Airbus, called for stronger packaging and handling regulations for batteries being shipped on freighters.

Tests performed by the 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. It’s common for tens of thousands of batteries to be packaged into one shipping container.

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.

Find opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, the world’s most dynamic airfreight market, at Cargo Facts Asia, April 21-22 in Hong Kong. Get more information here.

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