Rechargeable battery shipments to be barred from airliners

Cargo shipments of the rechargeable lithium batteries used in countless consumer products should no longer be allowed on passenger planes because they can create intense fires capable of destroying an aircraft, a U.N. aviation agency has concluded, the Associated Press reports.

The decision late Monday by the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization’s top-level governing council to ban the shipments isn’t binding, but most countries follow the agency’s standards. The ban is effective on April 1.

“This interim prohibition will continue to be in force as separate work continues through ICAO on a new lithium battery packaging performance standard, currently expected by 2018,” said Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, the ICAO council’s president.

Lithium-ion batteries are used in a vast array of products from cellphones and laptops to some electric cars. About 5.4 billion lithium-ion cells were manufactured worldwide in 2014. A battery is made up of two or more cells. A majority of batteries are transported on cargo ships, but about 30 percent are shipped by air.

The ban doesn’t apply to batteries packaged inside equipment like a laptop with a battery inside, for example.

PRBA – The Rechargeable Battery Association, which opposed the ban, said in a statement that the industry is preparing to comply with the ban, but there may be “significant disruption in the logistics supply chain,” especially for batteries used in medical devices.

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