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   Vol. 15  No. 16
Wednesday February 24, 2016

All About Lithium

All About Lithium


The Final Frontier

      Lithium-batteries, the final frontier. These are the voyages of disillusioned and frustrated dangerous goods-cum-hazmat experts in their seven year mission: To make some sense of notorious packing instructions 965 to 970 covering Lithium batteries, to seek their true meaning and a way to explain the regulatory requirements applicable to the shipping of Lithium batteries by air to those involved in the transport chain, and boldly go where no hazmat staff has ever gone before.
      If the aforementioned sentence sounds familiar to you, then you are probably a Trekkie who has followed the space adventures of the iconic Captain James T. Kirk and his science officer Spock.
      It may be worthwhile to remember the power source in Star Trek that made Warp speed possible: the both volatile and powerful Dilithium Crystals.
      That is actually what this article is about. It is an analysis of the recent changes in the Packing Instructions (short PIs) 965 to 970, and their shortcomings, with a brief look at their history.

A brief history

      Until 2008, Lithium batteries (and that classification covered both Lithium-Metal (non-rechargeable) and Lithium-Ion (including Lithium Polymer; rechargeable batteries) were regulated by ICAO/IATA Special Provision A 45. Those 44 columned lines regulated when these batteries could be shipped as exempted, so that no further requirements of the regulations applied, or when they had to be declared as a hazardous material.
      That changed with the 2009-2010 edition of the ICAO TI and the 50th edition of the IATA DGR going into force on January 1st, 2009. Numerous new special provisions (short SPs) applicable to Lithium batteries were introduced and the Lithium batteries as such were split into UN 3090, covering Lithium metal batteries as such (PI 968), UN 3091 covering Lithium metal batteries either packed with (PI 969) or installed in equipment (PI 970), UN 3480, covering Lithium ion batteries as such (PI 965), and UN 3481 covering Lithium ion batteries either packed with (PI 966) or installed in equipment (PI 967).
      The packing instructions 965 to 970 were divided into two parts each; part 1 regulated the so-called small batteries and cells (< 1g Lithium per cell or < 2g Lithium per battery for Lithium metals cells and batteries, < 20 Wh capacity for Lithium ion cells, and < 100 Wh capacity for Lithium ion batteries).
      That was understandable and trainable, although the fact that shippers of part 1 batteries (the excepted type) were exempt from the formal training requirements as well as a number of other requirements already raised a number of eyebrows within the industry.
      The 51st edition of the IATA DGR, however, saw the parts in PI 965 to 970 reversed, e.g. the small, excepted batteries were now addressed in section II of the respective PI and the fully regulated, larger batteries (which are subject to all regulatory requirements) in section I.
      The 54th Edition of the IATA DGR for 2013 introduced another ominous change, as only PIs 965 and 968— applicable to the transport of batteries as such—saw a further division of section I into IA and IB:
      Section IA continued to apply to the transport of fully regulated batteries and section IB applied to small, excepted batteries, which exceeded the quantity limitations of part II. They were still excepted from most of the regulatory requirements, including the requirement for a formal transport document, the “IATA Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods.” With this, these smaller batteries—although still of the small excepted type—did not fall under section II anymore and thus were subject to the formal hazmat training requirements.
      That cells and batteries in sections IA, I, and II had a net mass limitation, but section IB batteries had a gross mass limitation, was something no one really dared to comprehend, least of all explain to a layman.
      As a multitude of airlines felt unhappy with the exemption of part IB batteries (which had to be labeled with both the hazard label for class 9 miscellaneous dangerous goods and the handling label for excepted Lithium batteries) from the need for a formal shipping paper, the 55th edition of the DGR subjected the “IB” batteries to the DGD requirement.   
      It is most noteworthy that regulatory guidance applicable to these commodities differed greatly; until 2010, the German Federal Institute for Materials Research (BAM) voiced the opinion that Shippers of any battery required the full test report in accordance with part III, subsection 38.3 of the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, an opinion which was later abandoned in lieu of a so-called manufacturer-issued “certificate of conformity” being sufficient.
      Despite vociferous defenses from the industry associations PRBA and NEMA, who were speaking for the battery manufacturers and claimed that incidents, fires, and fatal hull losses were the result of a few willfully non-compliant shippers, and that no issues per se implicated Lithium batteries as a specific problem in air transport, the 56th edition of the IATA DGR saw Lithium metal batteries transported as such banned aboard passenger carrying aircraft. It should be emphasized that shippers of small batteries were still not subject to formal training requirements although they had to indicate on the shipping documents that transport had to be made on “Cargo Aircraft Only” and that the requirement for a metal outer or intermediate packaging component (which applied only to Lithium metal batteries shipped on passenger aircraft) was abandoned, which eventually reduced safety. In any case, that requirement was not complied with by a majority of shippers (at least in a formal sense), as any packaging component mandated by the regulations for a packaging specified therein would have to appear in the so-called UN specification packaging test report.
      In early 2015, ICCAIA, the industry association speaking for the aircraft manufacturers, teamed up with the pilot’s association IFALPA and petitioned the ICAO DGP to introduce stricter regulations regarding the transport of Lithium batteries, including banning the transport of Lithium ion batteries aboard passenger aircraft.
      After controversial deliberations, the proposal was rejected in early November 2015 with the backing of PRBA, IATA, the UK, and Germany against the representatives of the U.S., China, Russia, and Brazil. Instead, a requirement going into force April 1st was introduced to limit the SoC (state of charge) for Lithium Ion batteries only when shipped as such to 30 percent of their maximum rated capacity.
      However, this ICAO DGP decision did not go over well with the aircraft manufacturers, pilots, and U.S. representatives from DOT-PHMSA and FAA, as they felt that safety had been compromised.  Subsequently, the ICAO Air Navigation Commission (ANC)—where the supporters of tighter regulations have a majority—has recommended that this decision be overturned. On February 22, 2016 that is exactly what happened. An interim ban is to go into effect April 1, 2016. (see item above).
      A good overview of the (U.S.) regulatory requirements can be found in a presentation worked out by Bob Richards, SVP of compliance specialist Labelmaster and former PHMSA Associate Administrator, as well as the published PHMSA guidance.

What exactly is at stake right now?

      There are three notable facts about the 1st Addendum for the 57th Edition of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations:

  • The number of variations filed by carriers pertaining to the transport of Lithium batteries in any form is rapidly increasing. Interestingly, the carriers to file such variations account for as much as 55 percent of the overall cargo capacity of the IATA members, which simply means further industry fragmentation.
  • The changes introduced with this addendum have turned PIs 965 to 970 into “incomprehensive gibberish,” as an Asian governmental hazmat inspector noted. Also the format and provisions employ a structure that defies IATA’s self-proclaimed title as the the “field manual of the industry,” and trainers struggle to explain the new and amended provision in a way understandable to personnel subject to the hazmat training requirements for the air mode.
  • The new provisions contained in the DGR’s 57th ed. 1st addendum are formally faulty and will actually require regulatory guidance to be workable. This issue will be explained later in this article.

Clear language

      While traditionally the IATA DGR has fostered a much clearer structure aiding understanding and implementation of a rather complex set of regulations, that sadly seems to be no longer true.
      ICAO is ultimately responsible for a poorly worded and thus hardly workable part of the regulations.
      Besides numerous new and amended operator variations either further restricting or altogether banning the transport of Lithium batteries, the 1st Addendum for the 57th edition of the IATA DGR will mandate a maximum SoC of 30 percent applicable to all Lithium Ion and Lithium polymer batteries shipped as such (UN 3480), but not when contained in or packed with equipment (UN 3481):
      “Lithium ion cells and batteries must be offered for transport at a state of charge (SoC) not exceeding 30 percent of their rated design capacity. Cells and/or batteries at a SoC of greater than 30 percent may only be shipped with the approval of the State of Origin and the State of the Operator under the written conditions established by those authorities. Note: Guidance and methodology for determining the rated capacity can be found in Section of the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, 5th revised edition, Amend. 1.
      Besides other considerations, at least one would expect that a workable “Field manual,” which the IATA DGR is dubbed to be, would contain all the requirements without forcing the shipper to consult external sources such as the UN manual of Tests and Criteria.
      Although the requirement for UN 3480 being shipped at a SoC of no more than 30 percent appears to be clear, that will depend on ambient temperature and some other factors, as PRBA and NEMA have correctly noted.
      The ICAO TI and IATA DGR mandate that the “rated capacity” be determined in accordance with subsection of the UN MTC 5th Ed 1st rev. However, subsection does NOT give any procedure, but simply incorporates by reference three IEC standards. While IEC 62133 (the 2nd) is not applicable, one must choose either IEC 61960 (the 1st one) or IEC 62660 (the 3rd one) depending on whether the battery is a power source for a “road vehicle” or some other type of battery.
      While a majority of batteries will therefore fall under IEC 61960 and the 30 percent SoC requirement is not yet in force, the referenced 1st version of the IEC 61960 has been retracted and superseded by its 2nd edition, which allows for an accelerated test procedure. The fact that the IEC standards are available for pay-only standards must be applied as referenced.
      Whether the accelerated test procedure permitted in the 2011 version of IEC 61960 is actually permitted is subject to further regulatory guidance.
      It should be noted that the referenced IEC standards are not mandated but “guidance” only, but this leaves more questions open.

Battery Cartoon

      Another issue for the hazmat expert is the term “road vehicle”—would a hover board qualify as a vehicle?
      Most legal systems contain some form of obligation that a government must make available applicable legislation to the citizens and other affected stakeholders. A requirement to purchase the IATA DGR at a price in excess of U.S. $300 plus the IEC standard at 90 CHF may not hold up in a court of law.
       Even the referenced capacity limits for so-called “excepted,” thus small, Lithium ion batteries are not all that clear.
      Typically in such a scenario within the IATA DGR, the most restrictive requirement must be applied, which means that most people understand Table 965 II in a way that a battery may not exceed 100 Wh (which is true) and that the individual cells contained therein may not exceed 20 Wh (which is untrue). A battery consisting of four cells having 25 Wh each totaling 100 Wh is still considered “small” and thus not subject to other requirements than those specifically listed in Section II.
      Cells transported as such must, however, not exceed 20 Wh.
      The DGR 57th 1st addendum also introduces a limitation on how many packages of Lithium batteries may be contained within one so-called “overpack.” It is important to understand that packagings are mandated by the regulations while overpacks are added by the shipper for the ease or convenience of handling and are typically not mandated by the regulations.
      The following sentence was added to both PI 965 and 968 (applicable to batteries transported as such only):
      “Note: For the purpose of Section II, an overpack is an enclosure used by a single shipper that contains no more than one package prepared in accordance with this section. Shipments prepared in accordance with Section IA and/or IB, this limit of one package of Section II batteries per overpack still applies.
      Because the PIs 965 to 970 in their uppermost part clearly spell out which part is applicable to which type—capacity and number of batteries—users of the regulations need to check only “common” provisions and the applicable section (IA, IB, I, or II, as applicable).
      However, the aforementioned note appears at the end of section II, although it is applicable to both Section IA and IB.
      Another longstanding issue within the PIs 967 and 970, applicable to Lithium batteries contained in devices, are the provisions made for so-called “active devices”:
      “Devices such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, watches and temperature loggers, which are not capable of generating a dangerous evolution of heat, may be transported when intentionally active. When active, these devices must meet defined standards for electromagnetic radiation to ensure that the operation of the device does not interfere with aircraft systems. The devices must not be capable of emitting disturbing signals (such as buzzing alarms, strobe lights, etc.) during transport.
      Well, what are these “defined standards?” The regulations don’t say.
      For any transport made by air to, from, or through Europe, EC Directive 2004/108/EC must be adhered to while the FAA has similar, although not identical, standards.
      For Europe, the EASA-OPS parts Cat.Gen.MPA140 and 200 as well as EC-Directive 965/2014 must be complied with. Numerous European states have a legal requirement that the commander of an aircraft be informed about the presence of such an “active device”—which, for example, may be an innocuous temperature data logger packed with otherwise unrestricted cargo.
      Because these data loggers typically contain four or less Lithium metal cells or two or less Lithium metal batteries installed in equipment, regulatory guidance from IATA suggests that the following provision in PI 970 would apply:
      “Additional Requirements–Section II: Each package must be labelled with a lithium battery handling label.
      This requirement does not apply to:

  • packages containing only button cell batteries installed in equipment (including circuit boards); and
  • consignments of two packages or less where each package contains no more than four cells or two batteries installed in equipment

      Where a consignment includes packages bearing the lithium battery handling label, the words 'Lithium metal batteries in compliance with Section II of PI 970' must be included on the air waybill, when an air waybill is used. The information should be shown in the 'Nature and Quantity of Goods' box of the air waybill.
      Which, in clear language, means nothing else than if no more than four small cells or no more than two small batteries are shipped contained in equipment, the presence of Lithium batteries need not be declared at all for the purpose of transport.
      That this contradicts applicable European legislation is a fact unbeknownst to most shippers and forwarders as well as ground handling agents involved in the handling of such commodities.

Battery Cartoon

      The only manufacturer of such temperature logging devices whose product documentation sufficiently addresses these various standards not covered by the industry’s “field manual” is (also noteworthy) a U.S. manufacturer: Sensitech, Inc.
      The fire aboard a parked Boeing 787 in Heathrow, which closed LHR down for almost 90 minutes on July 12th, 2013, was caused by faulty wiring in the aircrafts’ Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) located near the back of the plane and outfitted with Lithium metal batteries as a power source.
      Initial reports of the accident suspected Lithium batteries as source of the fire, a fact later confirmed by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
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Chuckles For February 17, 2016
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Letters To The Editor for February 17, 2016
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