Governments need to support the safe transport of lithium batteries with global standards for screening, fire-testing, and incident information sharing, says the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Global demand for lithium batteries is increasing rapidly, bringing new shippers into air cargo supply chains, creating the risk of undeclared or mis-declared shipments.

IATA has long called for governments to step up enforcement of safety regulations including stiffer penalties for rogue shippers and the criminalisation of egregious or wilful offences.

It is asking governments to develop safety-related screening standards and processes for lithium batteries, which will help provide an efficient process for compliant shippers.

Fire-testing standards to contain fires are needed to supplement existing cargo compartment fire suppression systems.

Safety data is critical to understand and manage risks effectively, so IATA is calling for information sharing between governments as without sufficient relevant data, it is hard to understand the effectiveness of any measures.

The measures will support the industry including updates to the Dangerous Goods Regulations and the development of supplementary guidance material, the launch of a Dangerous Goods Occurrence Reporting Alert System providing a mechanism for airlines to share information on events involving undeclared or mis-declared dangerous goods, developing a Safety Risk Management Framework specifically for lithium batteries, and launching CEIV Lithium Batteries to improve handling and transport of lithium batteries across the supply chain.

Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA, says, “Stronger enforcement of existing regulations and the criminalization of abuses will send a strong signal to rogue shippers. And the accelerated development of standards for screening, information exchange, and fire containment will give the industry even more effective tools to work with.”