PRBA Seeks ICAO’s Assistance on Enforcement of Lithium Battery Transport Regulations

PRBA Letter Urges ICAO Meeting on Enforcement

In a letter to the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization, PRBA – The Rechargeable Battery Association expressed strong concerns about the dangers posed by non-compliant air shipments of lithium batteries and requested ICAO’s help to address the matter.

“These matters are of global concern,” PRBA’s August 8 letter said. “Recently, however, compliance and enforcement has been particularly problematic for products originating in the People’s Republic of China and shipped from Hong Kong,” the letter added. “We thus seek ICAO’s assistance in organizing a meeting of the competent authorities in the Hong Kong region to address this issue.”

The letter signed by PRBA Executive Director George Kerchner noted that the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP) has adopted a series of significant regulatory actions to address risks associated with the air shipment of lithium batteries, which PRBA supported.

At its April 2014 meeting, the DGP Working Group on Lithium Batteries also agreed to Recommendation 5/3, which listed measures ICAO should take to address compliance concerns, including focused audits of countries manufacturing large quantities of lithium batteries. PRBA supported the Recommendation.A2013 report by the General Civil Aviation Authority of the United Arab Emirates on the crash of a UPS Boeing 747 near the Dubai airport of a flight originating in Hong Kong underscores the need for energetic compliance and enforcement efforts. The report found that numerous lithium batteries aboard the flight were not shipped in compliance with ICAO’s dangerous goods requirements.

“The disregard” of these regulations by battery manufacturers and distributors “was both revealing and worrisome,” the PRBA letter stated. “We also are not aware of any government enforcement actions that were taken against these companies, which is extremely disappointing,” the letter added.

“We have learned, however, that some battery manufacturers and distributors who have their products shipped out of Hong Kong continue to offer their batteries for transport without complying with ICAO’s dangerous goods requirements. In many of these cases, circumstances suggest that they may have knowingly violated ICAO requirements,” the letter said. Non-compliant shipments are “extremely troubling” to PRBA members who expend time and money to meet ICAO safety requirements but can do little to address compliance on their own, the letter noted.

“ICAO, however, is in a position to act,” the letter said. PRBA’s letter requested that ICAO organize a meeting near Hong Kong later this year as a first step in developing a plan to address compliance and enforcement issues in the Hong Kong/southern China regions, the letter said.

“Moreover, without an aggressive enforcement effort, the chance of an incident greatly increases. This is an unacceptable situation – and one that can be avoided if regulatory authorities enforce their dangerous goods regulations,” the letter concluded.