On Tuesday, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) again called for governments around the world to strengthen their enforcement of safety regulations concerning the air transport of lithium batteries. At its seventy-eighth annual general meeting, being held in Doha, in Qatar, Iata also called for the development of global standards for the fire-testing, screening of lithium batteries and for the sharing of information about lithium battery incidents.
Airlines, shipping companies and manufacturers have already launched a series of initiatives to ensure the safe transport of lithium batteries. They have updated the Dangerous Goods Regulations and developed supplementary guidance materials. They have also created a Dangerous Goods Occurrence Reporting Alert System, which allowed airlines to share information regarding incidents involving misdeclared or undeclared dangerous goods. Further, a Safety Risk Management Framework has been developed, specifically covering the air transport of lithium batteries. And Iata has established its Centre for Excellence for Independent Validators Lithium Batteries, to increase safety in the handling and carriage of lithium batteries, along the entire supply chain.
“Airlines, shippers, manufacturers, and governments all want to ensure the safe transport of lithium batteries by air. It’s a joint responsibility. The industry is raising the bar to consistently apply existing standards and share critical information on rogue shippers,” pointed out Iata director-general Willie Walsh. “But there are some areas where the leadership of governments is critical. Stronger enforcement of existing regulations and the criminalisation of abuses will send a strong signal to rogue shippers. And the accelerated development of standards for screening, information exchange, and fire containment will give the industry even more effective tools to work with.”
Regarding the danger of fire, Iata wanted governments to develop a standard for lithium battery fires testing. This would allow the evaluation of additional aircraft protection systems, on top of the current cargo hold fire suppression systems.
The association also desired governments to develop outcomes-based and internationally harmonised standards and processes specifically for the safe transport of lithium batteries, which would be akin to those which already exist for air cargo security. This step would assist in providing compliant lithium battery shippers with efficient processes.
The sharing of information between governments, and between governments and industry, was of crucial importance for the understanding and so management of lithium battery risks. The effectiveness of safety measures could not be established unless there was sufficient information. Information sharing and coordination regarding lithium battery incidents had to be improved.