US Postal Service Prohibits International Shipments of Lithium Batteries

Effective yesterday, the United States Postal Service (USPS) amended its mailing standards, the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), to incorporate provisions prohibiting the outbound international mailing of lithium batteries and devices containing lithium batteries. The move brings the USPS international mailing standards in line with recent actions by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). The prohibition does not apply to lithium batteries authorized under the DMM when mailed within the U.S. or its territories.

Despite the move, the USPS expects to loosen the restrictions as soon as next year, as stated in the final rule:

“International standards have recently been the subject of discussion by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Universal Postal Union, and the Postal Service anticipates that on January 1, 2013, customers will be able to mail specific quantities of lithium batteries internationally (including to and from an APO, FPO, or DPO location) when the batteries are properly installed in the personal electronic devices they are intended to operate.”

In the final rule implementing the new restrictions, the USPS indicated that they plan to make consistent changes to other USPS publications that make reference to the mailing of lithium batteries. Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail and the International Mail Manual have since been updated.

The current mailability chart for lithium batteries, 10.20.8 Lithium Battery Mailability, has been replaced with a new one reflecting the changes adopted in the final rule. The chart can be used to determine the mailability of primary (non-rechargeable) lithium metal and lithium alloy batteries, or secondary lithium-ion batteries.  The final rule also adopts the ‘‘watt-hour ratings’’ instead of ‘‘lithium content’’ for secondary lithium-ion batteries when describing maximum quantity limits.

Shippers should take note that private carriers such as FedEx, UPS and DHL, will still accept lithium batteries and devices containing lithium batteries for international shipment.

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Should you have questions about these new regulations and how they might affect your shipping processes, please contact us at 800-621-5808.

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