ICAO DGP to Address International Rules for Lithium Metal Batteries Shipped by Air

George Kerchner, Executive Director
PRBA – The Rechargeable Battery Association

At its April meeting in Montreal, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP) will consider major changes in the international air transportation regulations on lithium metal batteries. PRBA represents the rechargeable battery industry as an official Observer with the ICAO DGP as well as the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.

The potentially new restrictions on lithium metal batteries shipped by air are based on recommendations developed during ICAO’s multi-disciplinary lithium battery transport meeting held February 3-6 in Atlantic City, N.J. The meeting report is available on PRBA’s website: http://www.prba.org/laws-regulations/international/.

The multi-disciplinary working group meeting included representatives from the airlines, battery manufacturers and the pilot’s association. The meeting was unprecedented, however, because it brought together international regulators and leading aircraft manufacturers familiar with air worthiness and flight operations to discuss the implications of incidents involving dangerous goods onboard an aircraft and whether the aircraft is designed and certified to minimize the risks of these incidents.

The primary purpose of the multi-disciplinary meeting was to review the implications of air transport of lithium metal batteries in Classes C and E aircraft cargo compartments and develop recommendations that, according to ICAO, would provide “the international aviation community with an acceptable level of risk and afford the battery industry the least possible burden in implementation.”

The working group presented DGP with several options for restricting shipments of lithium metal batteries on aircraft. One of the options that will be considered is a prohibition on shipping lithium metal batteries on passenger aircraft similar to what is in effect in the US.

Whatever option the ICAO DGP adopts in April, this latest round of changes to the lithium battery dangerous goods regulations will likely create a significant amount of confusion at the international level and frustrate shipments when the new regulations go into effect either later this year or in 2015.

For more information, please visit www.prba.org.