Shipping lithium batteries has become a confusing issue. Let’s start by asking "what is a lithium battery?". There are two types of lithium batteries – metal and ion (polymer). The lithium metal battery is also termed "primary" which means non-rechargeable. Typically you find these batteries in watches, calculators, cameras, etc. Lithium ion (and polymer) are "secondary" or rechargeable batteries. These are found in mobile phones, laptop computers, satellite navigation units, etc.
As most shippers are aware, ICAO/IATA rewrote the packing instructions for shipping lithium batteries by air for 2009. In the 51st Edition of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations for 2010, the packing instructions for lithium batteries have changed again.
First a quick review: the shipping name Lithium batteries is now either Lithium ion batteries or Lithium metal batteries. And for each of these shipping names are two (2) more: contained in equipment or packed with equipment. The shipping descriptions are:
- UN3090, Lithium metal batteries
- UN3091, Lithium metal batteries contained in equipment
- UN3091, Lithium metal batteries packed with equipment
- UN3480, Lithium ion batteries
- UN3481, Lithium ion batteries contained in equipment
- UN3481, Lithium ion batteries packed with equipment
The packing instructions in the 51st Edition of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations now consist of 3 sections. Packing instructions 965-970 each consist of:
- General Requirements: outlines the requirements for that battery type
- Section I: these batteries are fully regulated as Class 9 materials
- Section II: for the excepted batteries that are not subject to the regulations if the batteries meet the conditions listed.
If you are unsure how to ship lithium batteries by air, ICC offers an e-Learning option: Shipping Lithium Batteries by Air. It is approx. 1.5 hours in length. Call us for more information.