How to Ship Lithium Batteries by Air

August 18, 2023

What Shippers Need to Know about Shipping Lithium-ion batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are among the fastest-growing markets on the planet.

Sustainability regulations and demand for electric vehicles (EV) are set to push the market further than many imagined. But are supply chain processes ready for such a need? To answer that question, it is essential to consider the actual growth behind the market. According to a Markets and Markets report, the global lithium-ion battery market will reach USD $135.1 billion by 2031, expanding at a compounded annual growth rate of 13.1%. 

Such growth will inevitably lead to a greater awareness of proper protocols for shipping lithium batteries. Now, shipping such goods, especially by air, presents several core risks and is the subject of great interest throughout the supply chain. As a result, shippers need to know a few things about why these risks exist, what to look for in a transportation partner for managing battery shipments, and a few tips to ensure compliance with IATA regulations. 

Why Shipping Lithium Batteries Carries a Higher Risk

Lithium-ion batteries pose a clear fire risk, even when not in use in equipment. Any nearby metallic surface could complete the circuit between exposed terminals. Such contact risks can lead to a fire, but lithium-ion batteries can also be punctured, releasing potent electrolytes from the cell. Subsequent chemical reactions release heat that can damage nearby batteries and lead to the exposure of electric wiring within cargo bays or the general storage environment. It is not enough to protect the terminals from exposure; shippers must also ensure the battery  remains stationary to prevent shifting or activity to cause a puncture. 

Unlike other dangerous goods, the relatively commonplace nature of lithium-ion batteries means that they may be viewed as harmless goods. In reality, they are dangerous goods, and a failure to comply with regulations can lead to significant costs and penalties, including fines of up to USD $27,000 per offense.

Tips To Ship Lithium Batteries

Shippers can take a few steps to gain control over shipping lithium batteries while reducing risks. Of course, some are more obvious, such as packing shipments properly and ensuring all marking and labeling details are in place. Still, things tend to be overlooked, and it is best to follow this checklist of tips to streamline lithium battery shipping

1. Comply With Regulations

Comply with the regulations and requirements set forth by governing bodies. First and foremost, this is a nod to following the specific safety and compliance regulations set forth by individual governments. 

2. Properly Package and Cushion the Shipment to Protect It From Vibration or Shock Damage

The second step to reducing risks in shipping lithium batteries focuses on how to pack and ship lithium metal batteries. Shippers should ensure all lithium batteries are appropriately cushioned and protected from potential contact points. This also includes ensuring batteries are shipped in puncture-resistant containers. Until all parts of shipping lithium batteries are fully regulated, it is up to each shipper to ensure their materials are safely transported to avoid short circuits, punctures, or damage. 

3. Ensure There are No Loose Pieces on the Pallet

Shifting load contents may also lead to a risk of puncture or damage to lithium batteries. While it is easy to imagine proper transportation of individual pallets of lithium batteries, think about the consumer goods that may contain lithium batteries. These products are subject to shifting throughout transportation, and damage risks increase if they are improperly packaged. 

Even if the items that include batteries seem harmless, the products should still be treated with the same care and attention as if they were only a shipment of batteries. 

4. Attach a Declaration of Dangerous Goods Form to the Shipment, Listing All Applicable Hazardous Materials Information

Shippers must declare the package contents with the appropriate UN number to indicate the type of lithium-ion battery being shipped, such as cell batteries versus those devices containing lithium-ion batteries (laptops and battery-powered electronics).

The key is ensuring that the proper UN number is used and that the packaging is of the appropriate size to allow for explicit markup of lithium battery shipping labels without folding. The labels inform everyone of the safety risks and the need for additional care in loading and securing each shipment. 

5. Confirm Aircraft Loading and Terminal Operator Requirements Before Shipping

The last step to shipping lithium batteries means following through with carrier and aircraft loading requirements. Despite the standardization now available with the CEIV certification, each terminal may still have additional requirements for how to ship lithium batteries. 

Work with Crane Worldwide Logistics to Ensure all Appropriate Measures are Taken for Lithium Battery Shipments

Full cycle of battery logistics

The freight management world is growing more complex, and shipping lithium batteries is only the latest development in how things move around the globe. However, a failure to realize the risks or not following the requirements for shipping these batteries could possibly lead to fines, penalties, and even additional remuneration should a disaster occur.

At the same time, many shippers may ask, “how do I get certified to ship lithium batteries, or do you need to be certified to ship lithium batteries?”

While the answer to both is “it is complicated,” there is a more straightforward solution. Shippers should work with experts that get the ins and outs of shipping lithium batteries, and Crane Worldwide Logistics is committed to following and expanding on the best practices for such shipments.

Get a quote from our team today, and worry less about your lithium battery shipping needs.

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