Standards in fire resistance testing essential for air cargo

The safety and security stream at World Cargo Symposium delivered a number of key insights into critical areas.


Lithium batteries are always high on the agenda, not only because they are identified as a dangerous good but also because they are increasingly shipped in a multitude of consumer goods. This has led to more suppliers shipping lithium batteries, some of which are not familiar with the shipping guidelines and regulations. As such, it constitutes a risk for the carrier and can also lead to packages being rejected.

Aside from the regulatory considerations, work is ongoing to define a standard in lithium battery fire test standards for fire-resistant ULDs and containment covers.

Fire-resistant ULDs and containment covers can do a great job and contain a fire for up to six hours. And stakeholders in this field continue to test and improve their products. More severe fire-loads with different fuels and battery mixes are being evaluated, for example.

But the complex challenge is underpinned by the lack of a global standard in this area. Lithium batteries can be loaded differently, in varied quantities, and, be surrounded by a multitude of materials. More importantly, the state of charge, the cells, and the chemistries differ.

“There must be a consistent view for a standard,” said David Brennan, IATA’s Head of Cargo Safety and Dangerous Goods. “We need to find consensus on a test that will take into account the variables.” Brennan noted that if multiple tests were required it could become prohibitively expensive.

Regulations state that the maximum state of charge for a lithium battery is 30%. And tests conducted by Nordisk showed that beyond that range the risks of fire are considerably higher even with fire-resistant containers and covers. However, one school of thought is that the standard should cover higher states of charge than 30% to account for worst case scenarios.

It was agreed, however, that there must be an immediate solution. And though airframe manufacturers are always improving every aspect of safety, the timelines involved for the development and implementation of improved fire containment systems would be too long. Fire-resistant ULDs and containment covers are available today.

A panel on the subject also covered the many other considerations in fire-resistance ULDs and containment covers. One such consideration is sustainability. The end-of-life of these products must be a critical element in their production, for example.


The Panel

David Brennan, IATA’s Head of Cargo Safety and Dangerous Goods

Chris Browne, Business Unit Manager – Cargo, AmSafe Bridport

Frosti Lau, General Manager Cargo Service Delivery, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd

Enzo Canari, Cabin Safety Expert, European Union Aviation Safety Agency

Audun Rør, President, Nordisk Aviation Products AS


Credit | iStock