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Government support needed to make transport of lithium batteries even safer — IATA

Jun 21,2022 - Last updated at Jun 21,2022

AMMAN — The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on governments on Tuesday to further support the safe carriage of lithium batteries by developing and implementing global standards for screening, fire-testing, and incident information sharing. 

As with many products shipped by air, effective standards, globally implemented, are needed to ensure safety. The challenge is the rapid increase in global demand of lithium batteries (the market is growing 30% annually) bringing many new shippers into air cargo supply chains. A critical risk that is evolving, for example, concerns incidents of undeclared or mis-declared shipments. 

IATA has long called for governments to step-up enforcement of safety regulation for the transport of lithium batteries. This should include stiffer penalties for rogue shippers and the criminalization of egregious or willful offenses. 

IATA asked governments to shore up those activities with additional measures including the development of safety-related screening standards and processes for lithium batteries, development of specific standards and processes by governments to support the safe transport of lithium batteries, like those that exist for air cargo security, will help provide an efficient process for compliant shippers of lithium batteries. It is critical that these standards and processes be outcome based and globally harmonized.

Governments should develop a testing standard for fires involving lithium batteries to evaluate supplementary protection measures over and above the existing cargo compartment fire suppression systems, it said, adding that they need to enhance safety data collection and sharing information between governments 

Safety data is critical to understanding and managing lithium battery risks effectively. Without sufficient relevant data there is little ability to understand the effectiveness of any measures. Better information sharing and coordination on lithium battery incidents among governments and with the industry is essential to help managing lithium battery risks effectively. 

These measures would support significant initiatives by airlines, shippers, and manufacturers to ensure lithium batteries can be carried safely. 

“Airlines, shippers, manufacturers, and governments all want to ensure the safe transport of lithium batteries by air. It’s a joint responsibility. The industry is raising the bar to consistently apply existing standards and share critical information on rogue shippers. But there are some areas where the leadership of governments is critical. Stronger enforcement of existing regulations and the criminalization of abuses will send a strong signal to rogue shippers. And the accelerated development of standards for screening, information exchange, and fire containment will give the industry even more effective tools to work with,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

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