PRBA – The Rechargeable Battery Association has called for tough enforcement, new efforts to identify companies repeatedly violating the law and stiff fines to force China’s lithium ion battery manufacturers and shippers to comply with international transport regulations.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing an enforcement gap in China by agencies overseeing the transport of lithium ion batteries,” PRBA Executive Director George Kerchner said during a recent presentation at the 8th US – China Transportation Forum in Los Angeles.
PRBA presented several examples of companies manufacturing in China knowingly violating dangerous goods transport regulations, including undeclared and knowingly mislabeled shipments of lithium ion batteries. The cargo manifest of UPS Flight 6, a cargo plane that crashed in Dubai in 2010, listed several large, undeclared lithium ion batteries which originated in China. Counterfeit lithium ion batteries from China pose another problem. Safety concerns are growing, in part, because China has emerged as one of the world’s largest producers of lithium ion batteries.
Lithium ion batteries manufactured in China are often shipped internationally from Hong Kong to avoid China’s regulatory oversight and dangerous goods regulations, which are inconsistent with international standards. As a result, it seemingly has been difficult for Hong Kong authorities to enforce dangerous goods regulations on shippers and manufacturers of lithium ion batteries that originate in China, Kerchner said.
Kerchner recommended several solutions, including better coordination among regulators, airlines, freight forwarders, and the battery industry. China must enforce lithium battery safety regulations at the point of origin, including the initial shipper and the battery manufacturer, Kerchner emphasized.
Regulators also must identify companies that are repeat offenders, Kerchner said. Significant monetary penalties should be levied against companies who knowingly violate regulations, he added.
PRBA has repeatedly sought more aggressive enforcement to address the danger posed by non-compliant air shipments of lithium batteries. In an August 2014 letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization, PRBA said these matters “are of global concern,” but pointed out that “compliance and enforcement have been particularly problematic for products originating in the People’s Republic of China and shipped from Hong Kong.” PRBA asked ICAO to organize a meeting near Hong Kong to address the problem of non-compliant battery manufacturers, distributors and shippers and the lack of enforcement of dangerous goods regulations. Unfortunately, however, ICAO has failed to intervene.
An International Air Transport Association (IATA) official said at the 2015 World Cargo Symposium held in Shanghai that “flagrant abuses of dangerous goods shipping regulations, which place aircraft safety at risk, must be criminalized. Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for regulating producers and exporters.” IATA has also suggested many of the worst abuses occur in China.