Tighten up enforcement or face battery ban, says freight industry

15 / 08 / 2016

Freight industry and manufacturing groups have written to governments worldwide to demand stricter enforcement of international regulations on the transport of lithium batteries.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Global Shippers Forum (GSF) and the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), together with the US Rechargeable Battery Association (PRBA), the European Advanced Rechargeable and Lithium Battery Association (RECHARGE) called for safety regulations to be enforced at the point of origin including the initial shipper and the battery manufacturer.

In a joint letter to ministers of trade, industry and transport and directors of civil aviation in the world’s largest lithium battery manufacturing and export countries, the associations also called for cooperative enforcement between jurisdictions.

This would address situations where lithium batteries are manufactured in one country but flown from another. They also called for significant fines and custodial sentences to be imposed on those who break the rules.

IATA director general and chief executive Tony Tyler said that while airlines, shippers and manufacturers have worked hard to establish rules that ensure lithium batteries can be carried safely, these “are only effective if they are enforced and backed up by significant penalties".

Tyler said: "Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for regulating rogue producers and exporters.

"Flagrant abuses of dangerous goods shipping regulations, which place aircraft and passenger safety at risk, must be criminalized."

PRBA executive director George Kerchner warned: "The actions of a minority threaten to undermine confidence in legitimate battery and product manufacturers. This a matter of deep concern for our members.”

IATA and the PRBA say they have repeatedly called upon governments to address the danger posed by the wilful disregard of international regulations by rogue manufacturers and shippers and to close existing legal loopholes that prevent prosecutions of serial offenders.

They warn also that lack of enforcement is increasing pressure on airlines and regulators to unilaterally ban all forms of lithium battery shipments from aircraft – although not only would this add to shipping costs but would encourage those law-breakers to increase mislabelling of batteries, further increasing safety and security risks.

Kerchner pointed out too that a ban on the shipment of lithium ion batteries on aircraft would itself put lives at risk by slowing delivery of critical medical equipment and even jeopardize security because a large number of military applications are powered by lithium batteries.

GSF head of policy Alex Veitch said: “We support the airline and lithium battery industries’ view that existing regulations, if adhered to, achieve an acceptable level of safety for the transport of lithium batteries by air. these rules must be effectively implemented and enforced to prevent aircraft and passengers being put in danger.

“Government authorities must take responsibility for those producers and exporters who flout the regulations and must issue tough criminal penalties to discourage others. A ban on all shipping by air would unnecessarily penalise legitimate battery and product manufacturers and could seriously damage their businesses.”

“The biggest danger lies with the growth in counterfeit and non-compliant batteries that are being produced by unlicensed and unregulated manufacturers. These are rarely declared appropriately and tackling this problem requires international cooperation and coordination on a grand scale,” said Veitch.