The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recommends airlines to conduct a safety risk assessment when transporting lithium batteries.
Lithium batteries may have been the cause of, or contributed to, uncontrolled fires in cargo that lead to the loss of 3 freighter aircraft between 2006 and 2011:
- 8 February 2006, UPS, DC-8-71F at Philadelphia International Airport, U.S.A.
- 3 October 2010, UPS, Boeing 747-400F, near Dubai, U.A.E.
- 28 July 2011, Asiana Airlines, Boeing 747-400F, off Jeju, South Korea
Subsequently, the FAA performed tests that led to the decision of the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel to prohibit the carriage of lithium metal batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft. This prohibition does not include lithium metal batteries contained in, or packed with equipment. Lithium metal batteries can continue to be transported in freighter aircraft, and lithium ion batteries can be transported as cargo both in freighter and passenger aircraft under certain provisions.
Since high density shipments of lithium batteries is still considered a possible risk, ICAO continues working to find a suitable solution to appropriately address these risks with the aim of improving the packaging and shipping provisions contained in the Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air.
EASA meanwhile issued the following recommendation:
“Operators are responsible for the acceptance, loading, and actual transport of dangerous goods in accordance with the Technical Instructions.
Until safer methods of packaging and transporting are established and implemented, EASA strongly recommends that operators, before engaging in the transport of lithium batteries/cells as cargo in passenger or freighter aircraft, conduct a safety risk assessment in order to establish whether the risk is manageable.
Such an assessment should contain information on the types and quantities of lithium batteries/cells being transported, as well as on their state of charge, and consider the very limited capability of aeroplanes cargo compartment fire protection systems to control a lithium battery fire. In performing the assessment, the possibility that lithium batteries/cells may be affected by fires originating from other sources shall be considered.
EASA also recommends National Aviation Authorities to include this element in their oversight programme.”
- EAS SIB 215-19 (PDF)