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Are you Shipping Lithium Ion Batteries?

If you import or export lithium batteries you already know it can be challenging. Those new to the process should take care to understand and comply with regulatory guidelines for this commodity.

Lithium-ion batteries, also known as Li-ion batteries, are the essential powerhouses inside many of today’s popular consumer electronics. Their light weight and compact size make them ideal for portable devices of all types. However, there is a downside. If Li-ion batteries are not handled properly there are well-founded safety issues. As a result, important regulatory guidelines must be followed if you import or export these lithium ion batteries or any products that contain them. Li-ion battery blog sized.jpg

There are several different types of Li-ion batteries. The chemistry inside the battery will dictate its type as well as how it performs and how much it will cost. We won’t go into the technical specs of each type here however most handheld electronics rely on Li-ion batteries based on lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2). They provide high energy density in a small package which makes them ideal for things like smart phones. However, it’s this same high energy density that also creates risk. Simply put, Li-ion batteries are sensitive to things like heat, overcharging, discharging and other damage. If conditions are right, they can overheat, or even explode. As a result, Li-ion batteries are classified as “dangerous-goods” and regulated as such. 

It is always the responsibility of the shipper to fully understand and comply with all regulations applicable to their particular commodity. Because Li-ion batteries are considered hazardous, regulations published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the US Department of Transportation – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) should be reviewed and followed. Depending on mode of transport and origin or destination points there may be other regulatory agencies to consider as well. It is important to note that in addition to IATA regulations, individual air carriers may have their own limitations or restrictions and may also impose additional handling fees. Some air carriers will refuse to accept Li-ion batteries at all. 

IATA Guidelines for Shipping Li-ion batteries by Air

There are two major categories of Li-ion batteries.

  1. Lithium ion (Li-ion) rechargeable batteries also called “secondary lithium batteries”
  2. Lithium metal batteries sometimes referred to as “primary lithium batteries”

Current regulations prohibit shipping both categories as cargo onboard passenger aircraft. They are permitted on board separate cargo aircraft with packaging that clearly states “For Cargo Aircraft Only” and the total charged status must not to exceed 30%.

Based on The 2017 Lithium Battery Guidance Document” published by IATA there are three configurations for transporting the two types of batteries.

  1. Contained within equipment
  2. Packed with, but not contained in, equipment
  3. Packed by themselves

 Reference Links and Documents

There is no doubt that it can be a complicated process to ship Lithium ion batteries. However, in spite of the potential hazards the reality is there simply isn’t a better product option available at this time. According to a forecast by Transparency Market Research the global Li-ion market is growing fast. Sales could increase to $77 billion by 2024

Understand and follow the safety guidelines and consult with your logistics provider if you have questions or concerns. At Vantec Hitachi Transport System, we understand the challenges involved in handling all types of cargoes and our team of logistics experts is available to assist. If you have questions – we have Smart Logistic Solutions. 

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