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Clarification on lithium batteries
Originally published:  01/09/2009
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has issued another revised guidance document on the transport of lithium metal and lithium ion batteries. This version, available on the Association’s website at www.iata.org/NR/rdonlyres/480246B4-C9A3-4E19-AA94-38AE5472DDF4/0/LiBatt_2009V3.pdf, does indeed provide some clarity on an aspect of the transport regulations that has changed repeatedly in recent years in response to emerging risks and new technologies. It is important to recognise that lithium batteries are often carried outside the normal dangerous goods supply chain, and shipped by individuals and companies that might not otherwise come into contact with IATA’s Dangerous Goods Regulations.
The guidance document begins by explaining the difference between lithium ion and lithium metal cells. It lists the possible UN entries under which they must be shipped by air and highlights the requirement that they must be able to be shown to have passed the test procedures in Part III, sub-section 38.3 of the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria if they are to be excepted from the general requirements of the regulations as permitted by the terms of Packing Instructions 965 to 970.
The guidance document then explains the applicability of Special Provisions A88, A99, A154 and A164 and gives two flowcharts to help shippers establish the correct requirements, taking into account the different package size limits allowed for passenger and cargo-only aircraft. It lays out the restrictions applicable to the carriage of lithium batteries in passenger baggage and also explains the specific provisions in the US Hazardous Materials Regulations for transport to, from or through the US. Answers are also provided for a range of ‘frequently asked questions’, which should help shippers deal with any specific queries.