ICAO proposing even more changes to lithium battery rules for air shipment

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) held its semi-annual meeting in Montreal, Canada earlier this month. Among many issues discussed there were further changes that may affect shippers and carriers of lithium batteries. This commodity has been under the spotlight for several years now on account of the sometimes-volatile transport incidents that have come to be associated with them as cargo aboard aircraft. The ICAO body made the recommendations summarized below. Recommended compliance dates are indicated where known. It should be noted that these recommendations are not finalized, and may still be subject to substantial change:

State of Charge (SOC) LimitationsLikely effective April, 2016

  • All standalone lithium ion batteries (UN 3480) shipped by air will need to be transported at a SOC not exceeding 30% of the battery’s rated capacity. The 30% SOC limit applies to Section 1A, 1B, and II of Packing Instruction 965.
  • Offerors wishing to ship above 30% SOC will need a Competent Authority approval from the State of Origin and the State of the Operator. To date, PHMSA/FAA has not provided guidance on what will be required to gain an approval to ship above 30% SOC.

Section II Provisions for Standalone Lithium BatteriesLikely effective April 2016

  • The Section II provisions of PI 965 and PI 968 were altered to limit the number of Section II packages per consignment: “A shipper is not permitted to offer for transport more than one package prepared according to Section II in any single consignment.”
  • Definition of “consignment”: One or more packages of dangerous goods accepted by an operator from one shipper at one time and at one address, receipted for in one lot and moving to one consignee at one destination address.
  • No more than one Section II lithium battery package may be placed into an overpack.
  • Section II packages may not be offered in a unit load device and must be offered separately from other non-dangerous cargo.

Definition of “Equipment” Added

  • “An apparatus for which the lithium cells or batteries will provide electrical power for its operation.”
  • This definition may result in power banks (mobile energy sources for charging portable electronic devices) being considered “standalone” rather than “contained in equipment” lithium batteries.

Changes to “Contained in Equipment” Marking Exception (PI 967 & PI 970)

The marking exception has been changed from “not more than 4 cells or 2 batteries contained in equipment in the package” to “not more than 4 cells or 2 batteries contained in equipment in the package, where there are not more than 2 packages in the consignment.”

Elimination of the Accompanying Document Requirement for all Section II Shipments

Packages required to bear the lithium handling marking will no longer require an accompanying document with information on the type of lithium batteries, hazards presented, and telephone number.

Revisions to Special Provisions

  • A21: Added clarifying language to differentiate what is a “vehicle” vs. a “piece of equipment.”
  • A88: Pre-production runs or prototype lithium cells or batteries (non-UN Manual 38.3 tested) are directed to new Packing Instruction 910 for shipping requirements.
  • A181: Addresses requirements when combinations of “contained in equipment” and “packed with equipment” lithium batteries are shipped together.

New Lithium Battery MarkingEffective January 1, 2019

A new lithium battery marking will replace the lithium battery handling label. This marking will be required for lithium battery shipments made in accordance with Section IB or Section II requirements.

New Class 9 “Miscellaneous – Lithium Batteries” Label – Effective January 1, 2019

When labeling is required (Section I, IA, IB shipments), packages containing lithium batteries must bear a new Class 9 Lithium Battery Hazard Label.

Note: Recommended Rules Change Summaries courtesy of Labelmaster Services

To reiterate; the above are at present only recommendations. Recommendations often find their way into the regulations—that is obviously the intent; however, they can be and often are subject to further change prior to final incorporation. National authorities, such as the US Department of Transportation (USDOT), may also have much to say in regards to such issues, and such authorities also have legal power to change such regulations to suit national needs and preferences through the implementation of “Limitations” in the international regulations. This article is intended as an advance notice of issues on the table as generally agreed to, and should not be considered as notification of actual regulatory change at present. The turn of the new year should bring more clarification.

For further information, please see the relevant ICAO working document.

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