UN panel agrees to ban battery shipments on airlines

WASHINGTON - A UN panel approved on Monday a temporary ban on cargo shipments of rechargeable lithium batteries on passenger planes because they can create intense fires capable of destroying an aircraft.

See Full Article

The decision by the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization's top-level governing council isn't binding, but most countries follow the agency's standards. The ban is effective on April 1.

"This interim prohibition will continue to be in force as separate work continues through ICAO on a new lithium battery packaging performance standard, currently expected by 2018," said Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, the ICAO council's president.

Namrata Kolachalam, a Transportation Department spokeswoman, called the ban "a necessary action to protect passengers, crews, and aircraft from the current risk to aviation safety."

Lithium-ion batteries are used in a vast array of products from cellphones and laptops to some electric cars. About 5.4 billion lithium-ion cells were manufactured worldwide in 2014. A battery is made up of two or more cells. A majority of batteries are transported on cargo ships, but about 30 per cent are shipped by air.

Airlines flying to and from the U.S. that accept lithium battery shipments carry 26 million passengers a year, the Federal Aviation Administration estimates.

PRBA - The Rechargeable Battery Association, which opposed the ban, said in a statement that the industry is preparing to comply with the ban, but there may be "significant disruption in the logistics supply chain," especially for batteries used in medical devices.

Aviation authorities have long known that the batteries can self-ignite, creating fires that are hotter than 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit (593 degrees Celsius). That's near the melting point of aluminum, which is used in aircraft construction.

Safety concerns increased after FAA tests showed gases emitted by overheated batteries can build up in cargo containers, leading to explosions capable of disabling aircraft fire suppression systems and allowing fires to rage unchecked. As a result of the tests, an organization representing aircraft manufacturers - including the world's two largest, Boeing and Airbus - said last year that airliners aren't designed to withstand lithium battery fires and that continuing to accept battery shipments is "an unacceptable risk."

More than other types of batteries, li-ion batteries are susceptible to short-circuit if they are damaged, exposed to extreme temperatures, overcharged, packed too close together or contain manufacturing defects. When they short-circuit, the batteries can experience uncontrolled temperature increases known as "thermal runaway." That, in turn, can spread short-circuiting to nearby batteries until an entire shipment is overheating and emitting explosive gases.

It's not unusual for tens of thousands of batteries to be shipped in a single cargo container.

Three cargo jets have been destroyed and four pilots killed in in-flight fires since 2006 that accident investigators say were either started by batteries or made more severe by their proximity. The International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations lobbied the ICAO council unsuccessfully to extend the ban to cargo carriers.

"This has been a long time coming, and is justified by the risk these batteries pose in transportation," said Mark Rogers of the Air Line Pilots Association in North America. "We now call on ICAO to recognize that the same risk is present on cargo aircraft and to extend the prohibition to all aircraft, until safe methods of transport can be implemented."

Besides the ban on shipments on passenger planes, the ICAO also approved a requirement that batteries shipped on cargo planes be no more than 30 per cent charged, and imposed new limits on small packages of batteries.

Dozens of airlines have already voluntarily stopped accepting battery shipments, but others oppose a ban. KLM, the Dutch airline, made a presentation to a lower-level ICAO panel arguing against a ban, according to an aviation official familiar with the presentation. KLM and Air France are owned by a Franco-Dutch holding company. Representatives from the Netherlands and France on the dangerous goods panel voted last fall against a ban.

The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke on the condition that he not be named.

KLM officials didn't respond to requests for comment.

The battery industry and manufacturers of consumer electronics that rely on the batteries also opposed the ban. The ban doesn't apply to batteries packaged inside equipment like a laptop with a battery inside, for example.

Battery industry officials had no immediate comment.

ICAO's decision frees the Transportation Department to begin work on regulations to impose a ban. A law passed by Congress in 2012 at the behest of industry prohibits the department from issuing any regulations regarding air shipments of lithium batteries that are more stringent than ICAO standards unless there is a crash that can be shown to have been started by batteries. Since most evidence in crashes is destroyed by fire, that's virtually impossible to do, critics of the provision say.

Republican Rep. John Mica, who authored the provision, has said that since batteries are an international industry there should be a single, international standard because it would be too confusing for shippers to follow multiple rules.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • How to stack your online savings on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

    Economic CTV News
    CTVNews.ca has collected a handy list of tips, tricks, apps and websites that you can stack up to save big during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the remainder of the Christmas season. With Black Friday quickly becoming one of the hottest shopping days of the year, retailers are already beginning to launch their sales (or at least, their sale websites). Source
  • Competition Bureau wants answers from Sears liquidators on alleged price mark-ups, says report

    Economic CBC News
    The Competition Bureau is investigating allegations that some merchandise was marked up in price for Sears Canada liquidation sales, says a report by the court-appointed monitor for the retailer. Since Sears liquidation sales began, CBC News has heard complaints from several shoppers who found marked-up price tags. Source
  • Don't expect government meddling in the housing market to fix it: Don Pittis

    Economic CBC News
    This week, as the federal Liberals roll out their latest plan to fix housing in Canada, they face a Sisyphean task, one they're unlikely to complete. While the new government strategy makes a welcome political gesture toward solving problems created by the high cost of housing, there is evidence that the problem is bigger, more complicated and more intractable than any government can handle, even with this latest decade-long multi-billion-dollar plan. Source
  • Chief Liberal Party fundraiser tied to $8M loan to offshore trust in Cayman Islands

    Economic CBC News
    Newly discovered documents from the Paradise Papers show the Liberal Party's top fundraiser, Stephen Bronfman, was directly linked to companies that were owed millions by an offshore Cayman Islands trust well into the 2000s — despite his strong denials he had any involvement in the trust after 1998. Source
  • Retailers look to woo shoppers from rivals as Amazon grows

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK - Toys and TVs at J.C. Penney, Barbies at Best Buy, kitchen appliances like wine refrigerators at B.J.'s. As the holiday shopping season officially kicks off Thursday, shoppers may find some surprises at their favourite stores. Source
  • Asian stocks flat as support grows for U.S. interest rate hike

    Economic CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - Asian stock markets were largely flat on Thursday with investors in the U.S. markets going on a Thanksgiving holiday and the Fed minutes largely in line with investor expectations that the Fed will soon raise interest rates for a third time next month. Source
  • First LNG shipment leaves B.C. for China as industry looks to expand exports

    Economic CTV News
    SURREY, B.C. -- FortisBC says it has shipped 950 gigajoules of liquefied natural gas from Vancouver to China, marking the industry's first shipment to the Asian country. The move is part of a pilot project aimed to determine long-term feasibility of B.C. Source
  • U.S. commission alerted to review allegations against TripAdvisor

    Economic CTV News
    BOSTON -- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission could take action against TripAdvisor after the Massachusetts-based travel company was accused of deleting hotel reviews that contained allegations of rape and other crimes. Several people told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this month they were sexually assaulted at Mexican hotels and resorts but the online reviews that mentioned the crimes were taken down. Source
  • Trump SoHo to shed 'Trump' amid reports of sagging business

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK -- The Trump SoHo hotel is dropping the name it shares with the U.S. president. The Trump Organization said Wednesday that it is ending its licensing deal with the New York hotel amid reports that the property has struggled to attract business. Source
  • Wellsite pipeline leak spills 560 barrels of oil into northern Alberta swamp

    Economic CTV News
    CALGARY - The Alberta Energy Regulator says a pipeline owned by Calgary-based Mount Bastion Oil & Gas Corp. has leaked about 560 barrels of an oil and water mixture at a northern Alberta wellsite. AER spokesman Jordan Fitzgerald says the regulator has staff supervising cleanup by the company at the site about 65 kilometres northwest of Red Earth Creek, which is about 420 kilometres north of Edmonton. Source