It is rare when the following organizations all take the same position:
- NTSB makes recommendations for preventing lithium battery fires on cargo planes (nine page letter)
- UN panel recommends banning lithium-ion battery cargo on passenger planes
- ALPA: ICAO Panel Recommendation on Lithium Batteries Confirms U.S. Must Take Action Now
- FAA SAFO: Risks of Fire or Explosion when Transporting Lithium Ion or Lithium Metal Batteries as Cargo on Passenger and Cargo Aircraft
The consensus of these 4 parties is that lithium batteries pose an “unacceptable risk” for carriage as cargo on passenger planes and some limit on their carriage on cargo plane should be set.
ICAO’s recommendation was directed to that UN organization Member States. ALPA has taken the request for a ban to Congress. The FAA SAFO is addressed to airlines and “urges” them to develop mitigation strategies plus instructs its inspectors to review those procedures/policies/practices. The letter from the NTSB Chairman was sent to the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez, because her agency defines the regulations which control labeling, declarations and carriage of materials like lithium batteries.
It is incumbent on PHMSA to promulgate the rules while the airlines figure out how to deal with this risk.
It is estimated that the sale of these energy sources was about $2B in 2013. The Portable Rechargeable Battery Association represents Energizer, Panasonic, SAFT America, SANYO Energy (U.S.A.) Corporation and Varta Batterie. It reacted to the ICAO recommendation expressing disappointment on the “reversal” of the ANC’s previous review and noting that it “represents an unprecedented departure from ICAO’s procedures and overrides decisions that experts on ICAO’s Dangerous Goods Panel made in October after extensive discussions and debate.” PRBA’s statement also complained that “the ANC completely failed to address the most important safety issue associated with lithium batteries in transport: the lack of compliance and enforcement of the existing lithium battery dangerous goods regulations.”
The global economy benefits from the movement of these batteries, but it is evident that the short term risks merits IMMEDIATE action by PHMSA. It should also be noted that fire containment and detection solutions are being developed; so the ban may yet be temporary.
PHMSA, all of the major aviation safety experts concur; please issue the requisite regulations ASAP.