Drum It Up! Steel Drum Industry News, Trends, and Issues

Shipping Lithium Batteries: The Basics

January 7th, 2022 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: Industry News

Food, oil, hazardous waste, a multi-packed drum filled with all of your favorite Korean skincare products…it seems like anything and everything is shippable. But in our industry, we know that there are limits, regulations and stipulations when it comes to shipping just about everything. One item that feels riddled with restrictions are lithium batteries. They ask you if they’re in your package at the post office or in your bag at the airport, so what exactly is the deal with shipping lithium batteries?

As always, we recommend consulting with your manufacturer and transport vendors before choosing a container or transport method for any materials. But, here are some basics around shipping lithium batteries.

First, what is a lithium battery?

A lithium battery refers to a family of batteries with different chemistries. Dangerous goods regulations separate lithium batteries into two types: lithium metal and lithium-ion. Lithium-ion batteries especially have become a preferred energy source for loads of tech and even toys because they are lightweight, rechargeable and have a high power density. Your smartphone, laptop, tablet? They all have lithium batteries.

Can I ship lithium batteries?

Short answer? Yes. Your smartphone, for example, was obviously shipped several times throughout the supply chain. However, lithium batteries are classified as dangerous goods and, as such, face a host of shipping regulations.

Regulations vary based on location and mode of transport, but in the United States you can ship lithium batteries domestically via ground or air if properly packed with or contained in equipment and declared. International or commercial transportation of lithium batteries has a different set of rules. Be sure to investigate any specific rules with your intended carrier.

What about shipping lithium batteries via air?

Again, short answer: yes. The regulations for shipping lithium batteries vary based on whether they are being shipped by themselves, installed in or packed with a device, in bulk, etc. Lithium metal batteries shipped by themselves are forbidden on a passenger aircraft. Lithium-ion batteries shipped by themselves must be shipped at a charge level of >30% of their capacity. Furthermore, they must be packed separately from everything else and, as always, the packaging must be appropriately marked.

How to ship Lithium Batteries via air?

There are numerous requirements to safely and legally ship lithium batteries by air. Some of those requirements are:

  • The cell and battery have passed all applicable UN tests
  • All terminals are protected against short circuits
  • Packaging limits are met
  • Appropriate inner and outer packaging is utilized
  • Packages are appropriately marked and labeled
  • All required documentation has been completed

The information noted above is just the tip of the iceberg for properly transporting lithium batteries. They are certified as dangerous goods and, as such, all regulatory requirements must be complied with or you stand to accrue a civil penalty of up to $27,000 per offense.

Lithium battery shipments should always be packaged to meet all safety regulations to avoid any possible damage or fines. Shippers and packagers face liabilities if lithium batteries are not appropriately transported.The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has a more in depth article on this topic and, of course, you should review their lithium battery shipping regulations as well as the UN and DOT regulations.

Share on Facebook

Leave a Reply