Beveridge & Diamond
 

New Rules for Lithium Battery Air Transport

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., March 16, 2012

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Working Group on Lithium Batteries has agreed to new, more stringent requirements for shipping lithium ion and metal batteries and cells by air.[1] These new requirements, which will take effect January 1, 2013, will have important impacts on transportation logistics for batteries, especially bulk shipments.

Background

Currently, the ICAO Technical Instructions separately regulate air shipments of lithium batteries by whether they are lithium ion or lithium metal and whether they are contained in equipment, packed with equipment, or shipped separately from equipment, for a total of 6 applicable Packing Instructions. Within each of those Packing Instructions, batteries below certain size thresholds are excepted from regulation as Class 9 dangerous goods as long as they meet the Packing Instructions’ standards regarding packaging safety. Controversy has been ongoing with regard to whether those Packing Instructions, particularly for batteries not accompanied by or installed in equipment, adequately protect safety.

At the October, 2011 meeting of the 23rd ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP/23), the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Technical Center had given a presentation on lithium battery safety test results and offered controversial proposals to require all lithium batteries outside equipment to be transported as Class 9 dangerous goods. Because of the lack of time to analyze the proposals, no agreement was reached at the DGP/23 meeting, but it was agreed that the whole subject of lithium batteries needed to be reviewed, particularly as to bulk shipments. Thus, a meeting of a Working Group on Lithium Batteries was held on February 6-10, 2012 to complete the carry-over work from the DGP/23 meeting.[2]

Overview of Current Packing Instructions

The Working Group restructured Packing Instructions 965 (lithium ion or lithium polymer batteries not contained in or packed with equipment) and 968 (lithium metal or lithium alloy batteries not contained in or packed with equipment). Under Section II in each of the current Instructions, cells and batteries that are packed in a manner that meets the safety standards in the Packing Instructions and that are below the following thresholds are excepted from regulation as Class 9 dangerous goods:

            Size Limits

  • Lithium ion cells: ‹ 20 Watt-hour rating (Wh)
  • Lithium ion batteries: ‹ 100 Wh
  • Lithium metal cells: lithium metal content ‹ 1 gram
  • Lithium metal batteries: lithium metal content ‹ 2 grams

            Quantity Limits

  • Lithium ion cells and batteries: 10 kg per package
  • Lithium metal cells and batteries: 2.5 kg per package

In turn, Section I of the current Packing Instructions 965 and 968 fully regulates cells and batteries that are above these thresholds as Class 9 dangerous goods.

Revisions to Packing Instructions 965 and 968

Under the revised Packing Instructions 965 and 968, to be excepted from regulation as Class 9 dangerous goods under Section II, the following significantly reduced quantity limits will apply:

  • Small lithium ion cells/batteries ‹ 2.7 Wh, or small lithium metal cells/batteries with lithium metal content ‹ 0.3 gram: 2.5 kg per package
  • Lithium ion cells rated between 2.7 and 20 Wh, or lithium metal cells with lithium metal content between 0.3 and 1 gram: 8 cells per package
  • Lithium ion batteries rated between 2.7 and 100 Wh, or lithium metal batteries with lithium metal content between 0.3 and 2 grams: 2 batteries per package

Section I of Packing Instructions 965 and 968 has been divided into two new subsections, IA and IB.

The new Section IB applies to some batteries that formerly would have been excepted from regulation as Class 9 dangerous goods due to size and quantity. This new Section is intended as a compromise to alleviate some of the burden on battery shippers that would result from full Class 9 regulation.

Under Section IB, the following batteries must be shipped as Class 9 dangerous goods but are eligible for certain reduced requirements if these quantity limits are met:

  • Lithium ion cells ‹ 20 Wh and lithium ion batteries ‹ 100 Wh: 10 kg Gross
  • Lithium metal cells with lithium metal content ‹ 1 gram and lithium metal batteries with lithium metal content ‹ 2 grams: 2.5 kg Gross

These cells and batteries can use non-UN specification packagings, and alternative written documentation may be used in lieu of the standard dangerous goods transport document. However, all other Class 9 requirements, including employee training, apply. Also, each package must also be labeled with a lithium battery handling label in addition to the Class 9 hazard label. The Section IB requirements represent a substantial new burden on companies whose battery shipments were previously excepted.

The new Section IA applies to all cells and batteries that do not qualify for the reduced requirements in Section IB or the exceptions in Section II. Section IA requires full compliance with Class 9 dangerous goods requirements. Provisions from current Section I are mostly unchanged in new Section IA; maximum net quantity per package remains 2.5 kg for lithium metal batteries for passenger aircraft, 5 kg for lithium ion batteries for passenger aircraft and 35 kg for cargo aircraft for both battery types.

Revisions to Packing Instructions for Batteries Contained In or Packed With Equipment

The Working Group also made the following changes to the provisions for lithium cells or batteries packed with or contained in equipment (Section II of Packing Instructions 966, 967, 969, and 970): 

  • A net quantity per excepted package limit of 5 kg is imposed for both passenger and cargo aircraft.
  • Under Packing Instructions 966 and 969 (cells or batteries packed with equipment), the equipment must be secured against movement within the outer packaging and must be equipped with an effective means of preventing accidental activation.

The Working Group also added provisions on transport of lithium ion and lithium metal batteries by post, based on a proposal by the Universal Postal Union. For lithium ion or lithium metal cells and batteries contained in equipment and otherwise meeting the Section II exceptions under Packing Instructions 967 and 970, up to four cells or two batteries can be mailed in a single package, subject to the requirements imposed by designated national authorities.

For more information on the ICAO Technical Instructions for lithium batteries, please contact Aaron Goldberg, 202-789-6052, agoldberg@bdlaw.com, Elizabeth Richardson, 202-789-6066, erichardson@bdlaw.com, or Andie Wyatt, 202-789-6086, awyatt@bdlaw.com.  


[1] ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel, Working Group of the Whole on Lithium Batteries, First Meeting (Montréal, February 6-10, 2012) Report, available at http://www.icao.int/safety/DangerousGoods/
Working%20Group%20of%20the%20Whole%20on%20
Lithium%20Batteries201/DGPWGLB.1.WP.015.en.pdf
.

[2] See ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel, Working Group of the Whole on Lithium Batteries (Montreal, 6 to 10 February 2012), available at http://www.icao.int/safety/DangerousGoods/Pages/Working-
Group-of-the-Whole-on-Lithium-Batteries.aspx
.

For a printable PDF of this article, please click here.