New restrictions will come into force at beginning of 2018

Measures have been introduced in the latest IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) to reduce the risk caused by carrying lithium batteries.

If the batteries overheat, they carry a fire risk. Coming into force on January 1, 2018, changes to the regulations will restrict passengers and crew from travelling with more than 15 portable electronic devices (PEDs), and to a maximum of 20 spare batteries.

People are flying to different parts of the world—where they can buy PEDs very cheaply—and they’ll maybe purchase 20 or more devices

Currently, there are no limits on how many PEDs and batteries passengers can carry, where the lithium batteries do not exceed the standard limits of 2g for lithium metal batteries or 100 Watt-hours for lithium ion batteries.

Dave Brennan, IATA Assistant Director, Cargo, Safety and Standards, says the new restrictions were necessary to minimize the risk caused by having too many lithium batteries on board.

“When we fly a lot of us have a laptop, tablet, a phone, even two phones, and that’s quite reasonable,” he says

“But what we are seeing is people flying to different parts of the world—where they can buy PEDs very cheaply—and they’ll maybe purchase 20 or more devices.

"They might think, ‘I’ll keep one and sell the other 19’. You could even get someone flying to Hong Kong and buying about 100 phones.

“For that reason the Dangerous Goods Board [which is made up of representatives from 12 IATA member airlines] decided we needed to apply a limit.”

If passengers need go over the limit for any reason, they will have to gain approval from their airline.

We’re trying to clamp down on people buying several PEDs at the other end of their journey

This could be, for example, a passenger with a hearing aid who needs to carry a pack of spare button cell batteries.

“These pose no significant risk at all,” Brennan explains. “Another example is camera crews, who need to move with larger numbers of spare batteries. We see that as reasonable.

"But what we’re trying to do is clamp down on people buying several PEDs at the other end of their journey.”

A further significant change to the regulations concerns the packaging of lithium batteries as cargo.

It’s about safety at the end of the day. That’s the clear message—adoption equals safety

The revisions prevent lithium batteries being packed with other dangerous goods, such as flammable liquids, solids, and gases.

“We believe this is a step forward in improving safety,” Brennan explains.

For IATA, the main challenge is in ensuring the regulations are adopted across the industry.

Brennan—along with James Wyatt, IATA Assistant Director, Dangerous Goods Publications—regularly lead workshops highlighting the benefits of the DGR.

Their next series of sessions will be South East Asia, as they increasingly focus on regions where implementation of the DGR isn’t widespread.

“We are very consistent in terms of the volumes of DGR publications sold in certain areas of the world – both in print and online,” Wyatt explains.

“We plan to run some awareness workshops in Africa early next year, also in the Middle East, and potentially towards the end of next year in South America.

“It’s about safety at the end of the day. That’s the clear message—adoption equals safety.”

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