By Pratap John
Rogue lithium battery shipments have been troubling the global cargo industry for a long time.
Unscrupulous elements such as rogue producers and exporters seem to be taking advantage of the consumer demand for lithium batteries, which is growing by 17% annually.
The market for lithium-ion battery is expected to register a CAGR of approximately 22%, between 2019 and 2024. Growth is coming from declining lithium-ion battery prices and the increasing sale of consumer electronics.
With it, the number of incidents involving mis-declared undeclared lithium batteries has also risen.
Now, the global aviation industry seems to be making efforts to crack down on manufacturers of counterfeit batteries and of mis-labelled and non-compliant shipments introduced into the supply chain. The International Air Transport Association in partnership with the Global Shippers Forum (GSF), the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) and the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), are amplifying their efforts to ensure the safe air transport of lithium batteries.
The organisations are also renewing calls for governments to firmly deal with such offenders by issuing and enforcing criminal sanctions on those responsible.
“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,” points out Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice-president (Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security).
The campaign includes three specific initiatives — new incident reporting and alert system for airlines, industry awareness campaign on the dangers of shipping undeclared and mis-declared lithium batteries and facilitation of a joined-up industry approach.
n New incident reporting and alert system for airlines: An industry information sharing platform has been launched to target mis-declared 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 and misdeclaration.
n Industry awareness campaign on the dangers of shipping undeclared and mis-declared lithium batteries: A series of dangerous goods awareness seminars are being held across the world targeting countries and regions where compliance has been challenging. In addition, an education and awareness program for customs authorities has been developed in collaboration with the World Customs Organisation (WCO).
n Facilitation of a joined-up industry approach: The industry has put its support behind an initiative presented by the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France and the Netherlands at the recent Assembly of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) which calls for 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.
Experts urge governments to play their role with much stricter enforcement of international regulations to ensure the safe transport of these vital shipments.
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.
“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,” said Glyn Hughes, IATA’s Global head (Cargo).
“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,” said Vladimir Zubkov, secretary-general, The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA).
“Responsible shippers rely on government enforcement of standards to protect their investment in training and safe operating procedures. Air freight 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,” said James Hookham, secretary general, Global Shippers Forum (GSF).
“The increasing use of lithium batteries coupled with the growth of e-commerce supply and demand is exposing the air cargo supply chain to greater risk of un-declared or mis-declared goods. We support regulators imposing strict adherence to established compliance standards,” said Keshav Tanner, chairman, FIATA’s Airfreight Institute.
Lithium batteries carried by passengers remain a safety focus for airlines. Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) guidance is available to travellers in eight languages detailing what items must be packed in carry-on baggage.
n Pratap John is Business Editor
at Gulf Times.
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