Powerful air cargo alliance takes aim at rogue lithium batteries

By Damian Brett

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Global Shippers Forum (GSF), the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) and the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) are teaming up to increase their efforts to ensure the safe transport of lithium batteries.

The partners will target three areas to reduce the incidents of unsafe lithium batteries being transported.

Firstly, they will promote the use of an industry information sharing platform has been launched to target misdeclared consignments of lithium batteries.

The reporting system will allow real-time information about dangerous goods incidents to be reported in order to identify and eradicate acts of deliberate or intentional concealment.

They will also step up the industry awareness campaign on the dangers of shipping undeclared and misdeclared lithium batteries.

This will see a series of dangerous goods awareness seminars being held across the world targeting countries and regions where compliance has been challenging.

In addition, an education and awareness programme for customs authorities has been developed in collaboration with the World Customs Organization (WCO).

Finally, they have put their support behind an initiative presented by the UK, New Zealand, France and the Netherlands at the recent Assembly of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which calls for the adoption of a cross-domain approach to include aviation security, manufacturing standards, customs and consumer protection agencies.

Currently air cargo is scanned for items that pose a risk to security such as explosives, but not safety such as lithium batteries. 

The four trade associations urge regulators to follow through with significant fines and penalties for those who circumvent regulations for the transport of lithium batteries.

IATA global head of cargo Glyn Hughes said: “Safety is aviation’s top priority. Airlines, shippers and manufacturers have worked hard to establish rules that ensure lithium batteries can be carried safely. But the rules are only effective if they are enforced and backed-up by significant penalties.

“Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for stopping rogue producers and exporters. Abuses of dangerous goods shipping regulations, which place aircraft and passenger safety at risk, must be criminalised.”

Vladimir Zubkov, secretary general, TIACA, added: “We have seen high interest from the regulators on the issue of lithium batteries not that long ago, and it did help to improve the situation. We are asking governments to put this problem again on the top of their agendas.”

James Hookham, secretary general, GSF, emphasised: “Responsible shippers rely on government enforcement of standards to protect their investment in training and safe operating procedures.

“Airfreight remains a vital link in international supply chains and it is essential that the rules for ensuring the safe movement of all cargoes are understood and acted on by all parties involved.”

The organisations are also renewing calls for governments to crack down on manufacturers of counterfeit batteries and of mis-labeled and non-compliant shipments introduced into the supply chain, by issuing and enforcing criminal sanctions on those responsible.

Consumer demand for lithium batteries is growing by 17% annually. With it, the number of incidents involving misdeclared or undeclared lithium batteries has also risen. 

Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president, airport, passenger, cargo and security, concluded: “Dangerous goods, including lithium batteries, are safe to transport if managed according to international regulations and standards. But we are seeing an increase in the number of incidents in which rogue shippers are not complying. The industry is uniting to raise awareness of the need to comply. This includes the launching of an incident reporting tool so that information on rogue shippers is shared. And we are asking governments to get much tougher with fines and penalties.”

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