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Airline group launches certification program for lithium battery transport

IATA also urges aviation authorities to work on fire containment technology

Lithium batteries are highly regulated for air transport because they can overheat and cause a fire. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The International Air Transport Association on Tuesday introduced a new industry certification to improve the safe handling and transport of lithium batteries by air logistics providers.

The energy source powers a wide variety of consumer goods ranging from mobile phones and laptops, to toys, cars and e-bikes. 

Shipments of lithium batteries must comply with well-established global safety standards for how they are manufactured, tested, packed, marked, labeled and documented. These requirements are a key element of the IATA Lithium Battery Shipping Regulations (LBSR) and of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR), which combine regulatory and operational input from industry and government experts. 

The Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) Lithium Battery demonstrates a facility’s ability to properly handle and store lithium batteries, as well as validates the training and compliance expertise of on-site employees. It follows in the footsteps of similar certifications for handling pharmaceutical products, perishable goods and live animals.

“Lithium batteries are critical power sources for many consumer goods on which we all rely. And it is vital that we can ship them safely by air either with finished products or as components in global supply chains. That’s why we developed the CEIV Lithium Battery certification. It gives shippers and airlines assurance that certified logistic companies operate to the highest safety and security standards when shipping lithium batteries,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh in a statement from Dublin, where the organization is holding its World Cargo Symposium.

As demand for lithium batteries continues to grow, IATA has also pressed governments for greater enforcement of dangerous goods regulations to stop rogue exporters from sending shipments that pose a threat to aircraft. 

Concern centers around counterfeit, undeclared and misdeclared lithium batteries from shippers who cut costs by violating international regulations and standards for safe transport. Unsafe situations also arise when uneducated parties unwittingly ship batteries and other dangerous goods without proper packaging and disclosure.

Earlier this year a pallet full of smartphones caught fire on the ramp at Hong Kong airport, although the investigation found that it has properly handled and declared.

At the conference, IATA called for the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to accelerate development of a test standard that can be used to demonstrate that fire containment pallet covers and fire-resistant containers are capable of withstanding a fire involving lithium batteries.

Officials also urged the industry to step up and expand the collection of incident data and develop methods for the data to be shared to support airlines’ safety risk assessment process.

CEVA Logistics takes lead

IATA said that CEVA Logistics, a subsidiary of ocean shipping line CMA CGM, has received the first lithium battery certification for its operations at Hong Kong International Airport and at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, after teaming with the trade association to support the development and testing of the new certification program.

CEVA said it plans to extend its certifications to more locations in Asia, Europe and the Americas.

“From cargo handlers, ground handling companies, freight forwarders and shipping companies, the more stakeholders along the value chain which participate in CEIV Lithium Battery, the stronger and more effective it will be for the industry. Ultimately, we all want to see a network of CEIV Lithium Battery trade lanes with participants certified at origin, destination and in transit points,” said Walsh. 

CEVA has experience transporting a wide range of batteries, including for the automotive, technology, health care and retail industries. In the automotive market, it handles electric vehicle batteries for 14 of the 15 largest automakers.

The new CEIV certification represents an air freight credential, but CEVA also manages the battery life cycle through its contract logistics or freight forwarding services in ground and ocean transport.

“This new certification gives customers even more confidence in our ability to safely and reliably transport their lithium-ion batteries,” said Peter Penseel, COO of air freight for CEVA Logistics.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He won Environmental Journalist of the Year from the Seahorse Freight Association in 2014 and was the group's 2013 Supply Chain Journalist of the Year. In December 2022, Eric was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. He has appeared on Marketplace, ABC News and National Public Radio to talk about logistics issues in the news. Eric is based in Vancouver, Washington. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]