Rules on shipping by air getting stricter


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Lithium batteries are becoming increasingly popular as they are generally lighter than alternative technologies and do not suffer from memory effects, so may provide longer lifetimes. Although they are widely used, many people are not aware that lithium batteries are classified as “dangerous goods” or “hazardous materials” and can potentially pose a safety risk if not operated and transported in accordance with the relevant guidelines and regulations.

Because lithium batteries are designed with high energy densities, they are capable of generating significant amounts of heat if short circuited. In addition, their chemical components may catch fire if damaged due to improper handling or operation. For example, there are recorded incidents of fires being caused when damaged charged batteries were loose-loaded in a box then transported by air.

To overcome these issues, packaging and safety regulations are in place which govern the handling and shipment of Lithium batteries to help ensure safe transportation. The regulations for air transportation are particularly onerous: these were first implemented in 2011 and have undergone review and amendment annually since then. The regulations are complex and differ depending on several factors, including the size and type of battery, and whether the batteries are being shipped with or without radios, or contained within the radio. Two restrictions of particular relevance are:

- UN3480 Packing Instructions 965 Section II applies to cells and batteries within specified capacity limits and defined package quantities.

- UN3481 Packing Instructions 966 & 967 Section II applies to batteries packed with equipment or contained within equipment and defines allowed capacity limits and package quantities. For Motorola’s radio shipments, the maximum number permitted is two batteries per box / sales kit.

As a result of the increasing strictness and complexity of the regulations, a growing number of airlines now refuse to carry bulk batteries in their passenger aircrafts, and some airlines will not carry bulk battery shipments at all. This poses a challenge for Motorola Solutions and our customers as some destinations we ship to have restricted numbers of cargo flights that will accept Lithium batteries. In some extreme cases, destinations are no longer served by any cargo flights that will accept shipments. In these cases, we are forced to use road- or sea-transportation, but there is a resultant increase in delivery times.

Motorola designs all our products and processes to meet or exceed relevant performance and safety regulations and we continue to monitor the situation to ensure both that we are compliant, and that we are able to inform our Channel Partners of any further changes introduced by the regulation authorities.

If you have any concerns regarding shipments of Lithium batteries from Motorola Solutions, please contact your Account Manager.

More information on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website

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