CAAC Bans Lithium Batteries on Passenger Aircraft

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has issued a ban on transporting individually packaged lithium batteries on passenger aircraft. It comes after a stern warning expressed by Washington’s FAA.

Based on the 2015-2016 Edition of the ICAO Technical Instruction for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, the CAAC has recently specified that individually packaged lithium batteries are banned from shipments on passenger aircraft unless exempted by states concerned. There has been a strong increase in volumes of lithium batteries being transported by air in recent years and as a result several lithium battery-related incidents have occurred.

The CAAC statement said, however, that lithium batteries packaged with equipment or installed in electronic equipment can be transported on passenger aircraft and freighters in accordance with the requirements of the ICAO Technical Instructions.

Flagrant abuses should be criminalized
At last week's IATA World Cargo Symposium in Shanghai, James Woodrow, the chairman of the Cargo Committee and director of Cargo at Cathay Pacific Airways, called for strong action to secure the safe transport of lithium batteries by air.

“Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for regulating producers and exporters, and ensure compliance by those who are responsible for initiating the transportation. Flagrant abuses of dangerous goods shipping regulations which place aircraft safety at risk must be criminalized as are other actions which place aircraft safety at risk," Woodrow stated.

He added that the level of shipment assessments and trusted shipper programmes must also be increased in order that those who comply with the regulations are not unduly impacted. "We call upon reputable manufacturers in the high technology sector to join us in this demand,” Woodrow said.

“Unacceptable risk”
Meanwhile, U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing said high-density packages of lithium batteries like those used in cell phones and laptops pose fire risks and should not be carried on passenger planes until safer methods for carrying them are developed. The risk is "continually increasing (and) requires action to be taken," the aircraft maker said in a statement.

Boeing is part of an industry group including other manufacturers such as Bombardier and Airbus, which have concluded that current firefighting systems on airliners cannot "suppress or extinguish a fire involving significant quantities of lithium batteries," posing an "unacceptable risk" for the industry.

Nol van Fenema

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