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Airfreight industry calls for new crackdown on rogue battery shippers

[ December 11, 2019   //   ]

The airfreight industry has stepped up its campaign to crack down on illegal shipments of Lithium batteries.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Global Shippers Forum (GSF), the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) and the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) have renewed calls for governments to crack down on manufacturers of counterfeit batteries and of mis-labeled and non-compliant shipments and to enforce criminal sanctions on those responsible.

With growing consumer demand for Li batteries, the number of incidents involving mis-declared or undeclared cargo has also risen, the say.

GSF secretary general, James Hookham, explained: “Responsible shippers rely on government enforcement of standards to protect their investment in training and safe operating procedures. Air freight remains a vital link in international supply chains and it is essential that the rules for ensuring the safe movement of all cargoes are understood and acted on by all parties involved.”

IATA’s senior vice president, airport, passenger, cargo and security, said: “Dangerous goods, including Lithium batteries, are safe to transport if managed according to international regulations and standards. But we are seeing an increase in the number of incidents in which rogue shippers are not complying. The industry is uniting to raise awareness of the need to comply. This includes the launching of an incident reporting tool so that information on rogue shippers is shared. And we are asking governments to get much tougher with fines and penalties.”

The campaign also includes a new incident reporting and alert system information sharing platform. It will allow real-time information about dangerous goods incidents to be reported in order to identify and eradicate acts of deliberate or intentional concealment and misdeclaration.

There is also an industry awareness campaign on the dangers of shipping undeclared and misdeclared lithium batteries including a series of awareness seminars targeting countries and regions where compliance has been challenging. A similar programme for customs authorities has also  been developed in collaboration with the World Customs Organization (WCO).

The industry has put its support behind an initiative by the UK, New Zealand, France and the Netherlands at the recent International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assembly which called for adoption of a cross-domain approach to include aviation security, manufacturing standards, customs and consumer protection agencies. Currently air cargo is scanned for items that pose a risk to security such as explosives, but not safety such as Lithium batteries.

IATA’s Global head of Cargo, Glyn Hughes, said: “Airlines, shippers and manufacturers have worked hard to establish rules that ensure Lithium batteries can be carried safely. But the rules are only effective if they are enforced and backed-up by significant penalties. Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for stopping rogue producers and exporters. Abuses of dangerous goods shipping regulations, which place aircraft and passenger safety at risk, must be criminalized.”

TIACA secretary general, Vladimir Zubkov, added: “We have seen high interest from the regulators on the issue of lithium batteries not that long ago, and it did help to improve the situation. We are asking governments to put this problem again on the top of their agendas.”

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