Shipping Lithium Ion Batteries? What You Need To Know

Shipping Lithium Ion Batteries? What You Need To Know
April 10, 2017 gnuworld
shipping lithium ion batteries

In order to power devices for long periods, lithium ion batteries contain high levels of electric energy.

Good quality lithium ion batteries undergo rigorous testing during manufacture. However, if they’re packed incorrectly for shipping, they can short-circuit, overheat and even possibly ignite while in transit.

Shipping regulations

Lithium ion batteries are classified as “Dangerous Goods” under the UN recommendations because they pose a fire hazard. As a result, lithium ion batteries must be correctly packaged and identified for shipping.

Specific shipping regulations apply to:

  • lithium ion batteries that are packed as individual items, such as power banks and loose batteries
  • lithium ion batteries that are packed separately but shipped with equipment – such as a cell phone with a lithium ion battery – in the same box
  • devices that contain lithium ion batteries that can’t be removed, such as laptops with integrated lithium ion batteries.

As of January 2017, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) requires that shipments containing lithium ion batteries, whether loose, contained in equipment, or packaged with equipment, for cargo aircraft are either labelled with the existing Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods hazard label or the new Class 9 Lithium Battery hazard label.

Under these new regulations, the shipment no longer needs to be accompanied by a transport document.

How to pack lithium ion batteries

Lithium ion batteries must be packaged so as to prevent battery terminals from coming into contact with conductive surfaces, metal objects or other batteries, which can cause them to short-circuit.

To guard against this, place loose batteries in non-conductive inner packaging and cover exposed terminals with non-conductive caps, or non-conductive tape.

If you’re shipping a device with a removable lithium ion battery for repair and there’s any risk that the device will overheat, ship the device without the battery.

If you’re shipping a device such as a laptop with installed batteries, protect all power switches to ensure that the device doesn’t accidentally turn on while in transit. Then wrap the device in non-conductive packing material. Plastic is a good choice.

Always use a rigid box to pack lithium ion batteries and devices containing lithium ion batteries, and separate the items in the box from the outer walls, as well as from each other, with non-conductive padding.

Ensure that any void space is filled with packing material, so that the contents of the box can’t shift in transit.

Lithium ion batteries packed with or contained in equipment in individual packages may be consolidated within an overpack. However, the individual packages must still comply with the necessary requirements, and the overpack must be marked with the word “overpack”.

Packing regulations

It’s the responsibility of the shipper to ensure that dangerous goods are correctly packed, labelled and declared. Below we’ve outlined the key regulations, for both air and road or sea freight.

Loose lithium batteries (UN3480)

Air freight:

  • loose lithium ion batteries must be transported in a state of charge (SoC) at or below 30% of their rated design capacity
  • batteries at an SoC of greater than 30% may only be shipped with the approval of the State of Origin and the State of the Operator
  • batteries of different capacities Wh (Watt Hour) ratings must not be combined in the same package
  • lithium ion batteries that have been identified as damaged or defective are forbidden for air transport
  • there’s no restriction on the number of batteries with a capacity less than or equal to 2.7 Wh contained within a package, but a weight restriction of 2.5 kilograms per package applies
  • packages containing loose lithium ion batteries with a capacity above 2.7 Wh but less than or equal to 100 Wh may contain a maximum of two batteries per package, and are restricted to only one package per consignment
  • packages of loose batteries with a capacity ≤ 100 Wh must not exceed 10 kilograms in weight
  • batteries must be packed according to Packing Instructions 965, specified by the International Air Transport Association (IATA)
  • all packages of loose lithium ion batteries must be labelled with the UN number, net weight, transport category, the shipper and consignee’s address, as well as mandatory shipping labels
  • the package must bear the label “Lithium ion batteries in compliance with Section II of PI965” and a “Cargo Aircraft Only” label.

Road and sea freight

  • a package containing batteries with a capacity > 100 Wh must not exceed 30 kilograms net weight
  • a weight restriction of 333 kilograms per transport unit applies for road freight
  • all packages of loose lithium ion batteries must be labelled with the UN number, net weight, transport category, the shipper and consignee’s address, as well as mandatory shipping labels
  • a declaration/shipping paper must accompany the package.

Lithium batteries packed with equipment (UN3481)

Air freight

  • a package containing batteries with a capacity ≤ 100 Wh may contain only the batteries required to power the device, along with a maximum of two spares
  • the net weight of the package must not exceed 5 kilograms
  • batteries must be packed according to Packing Instructions 966, specified by IATA
  • a package must be labelled with the UN number, net weight, transport category, the shipper and consignee’s address, as well as mandatory shipping labels
  • the package must bear the label “Lithium ion batteries in compliance with Section II of PI966”.

Road and sea freight

  • there is a 30 kilogram weight limit per package for batteries with a capacity ≤ 100 Wh
  • a package must be labelled with the UN number, net weight, transport category, the shipper and consignee’s address, as well as mandatory shipping labels
  • a declaration/ shipping paper must accompany the package.

Lithium batteries contained within equipment (UN3481)

Air freight

  • batteries must be packed within the device, and the package must be able to withstand a 1.2 metre drop
  • the capacity of each battery must not exceed 100 Wh
  • there may be a maximum of two batteries per package, and two packages per consignment; otherwise, it must bear the label “Lithium ion batteries in compliance with Section II of PI967”
  • the weight restriction is 5 kilograms per package
  • batteries must be packed according to Packing Instructions 967, specified by IATA
  • each package must be labelled with the UN number, net weight, transport category, the shipper and consignee’s address, as well as any mandatory shipping labels.

Road and sea freight

  • there is no weight limit for packages of devices containing batteries with a capacity ≤ 100 Wh
  • packages must be labelled with the UN number, net weight, transport category, the shipper and consignee’s address, as well as any mandatory shipping labels
  • a lithium handling label is required for packages containing more than two batteries
  • a declaration/ shipping paper must accompany the package.

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