The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) panel on dangerous goods, which met in Montreal last week, rejected a ban on rechargeable lithium batteries from being carried in the belly holds of passenger aircraft. The Associated Press reported the panel vote was 11-7. The panel’s decision is a recommendation to ICAO’s air navigation bureau, which will most likely follow the recommendation.
Voting in favor of banning the potentially dangerous cargo were delegates from the United States, Russia, Brazil, China and Spain, as well as representatives for airline pilots unions and aircraft manufacturers. The Netherlands, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, United Arabs Emirates, South Korea, Japan and the United Kingdom, and IATA voted against the ban.
The high-power-to-density lithium primary and lithium-ion cells provide long-lasting, reliable energy for many of the everyday electronic items we use, but they also pack a punch. When packaged in bulk and damaged by jostling, they are often subject to a chain reaction known as thermal runaway, which can cause a fire. It appears from the vote, however, that the battery industry and companies that rely on battery shipments are more concerned about rogue shippers who don’t use proper labeling procedures, or declare what’s really in a package or pallet. Currently, shippers can bundle as many small packages of batteries as they like into a single, large container.
The panel agreed that batteries that are being shipped should only be 30 percent charged, thus reducing the risk of a fire. However, opponents of the ban argued that the decision to carry them should be left up to individual airlines.
Look for a full report about lithium batteries, the risks and possible solutions, in the November issue of Air Cargo World.