THE INTERNATIONAL Air Transport Association has warned that “rogue shippers” who disregard measures for sending lithium batteries are compromising safety.

IATA highlighted the issues – and improvements – in transporting lithium batteries during the association’s 18th World Cargo Symposium in Hong Kong.

In a progress report at the event IATA’s global head of air cargo Brendan Sullivan said the industry’s safety record “reached new heights” last year, but urged the industry to maintain its focus on safely handling dangerous goods.

“Among the 38 million flights in 2023 there were 30 accidents and just one of which was fatal,” he said.

“A good safety record is earned every day. For air cargo, that means continuing to put special emphasis on the handling of dangerous goods, and in particular lithium batteries.”

Mr Sullivan highlighted five significant developments in this space.

“First, a draft for developing a new fire test standard is ready for approval,” he said.

“It would be applicable to fire-resistant containers and fire containment covers for aircraft pallets. This will aid in countering improperly packaged shipments should they be loaded on board.”

The second development is that 90 airlines now report dangerous goods incident data to the IATA Global Aviation Data Management. IATA plans to develop more actionable insights using this data to improve risk management and advocacy capabilities.

“Third, recognising the particular risks from inexperienced e-commerce shippers using the postal system, we published special guidance for operators to recognise and mitigate the risks,” Mr Sullivan said.

“Fourth, the number of companies participating in CEIV Lithium Batteries has grown to 93. The more companies that join the more we will see best practice implemented.

“And fifth, regulation is getting stronger. All governments need to support the strengthening of the standards in Annex 18 of the Chicago Convention concerning the safe transport of dangerous goods. Updates to Annex 18 will clarify who is responsible for what within the cargo supply chain and how countries oversee these activities.

“We urge all countries to adopt and implement these changes to Annex 18, thereby ensuring the continued safety and efficiency of air transport for dangerous goods.”

Mr Sullivan said the actions demonstrate how issues around lithium batteries are being “comprehensively managed” with better education, tracking and operational solutions.

“But when all that is ignored by rogue shippers, we continue to count on strong action by government authorities,” he said.

“Failing to declare lithium batteries in cargo or mail shipment, sending batteries which do not comply with UN test criteria, or not preparing the dangerous goods shipments in accordance with regulations compromises safety and it must be clear to all that the authorities will punish offenders.”

Along with air cargo safety, Mr Sullivan also explored efficiency, digitalisation, and sustainability.

The World Cargo Symposium opened on 12 March and will wrap up on 14 March.