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Ecommerce Shipping Guidelines for Lithium Metal and Lithium Ion Batteries

by Amy Silvers on June 27, 2019

Guidelines and regulations for shipping lithium batteries recently changed, and that’s putting many ecommerce distributors and FCs (fulfillment centers) at risk – both a safety and a legal risk.

These regulations and provisions were outlined in the recently released 60th Edition of the IATA Dangerous Good Regulations (DGR) and the 2019-2020 Edition of the ICAO Technical Instruction for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air.

While we suggest reviewing the 2019 Lithium Battery Guidance Document, we’ll cover the most important guidelines here, and look at ways you can protect yourself and your business.

What are Lithium Batteries?

A lithium battery uses lithium as a primary component. Lithium batteries provide a higher charge density and longer life than other battery types like the zinc-carbon and alkaline. According to the updated DGR guidelines, there are two types of lithium batteries:

  • Lithium metal batteries: Non-rechargeable batteries that use lithium metal or compounds as an anode. They also comprise lithium alloy batteries. They have applications such as watches and cameras.Work with the Experts and Reduce Costs Contact GO2 Partners Today
  • Lithium-ion batteries: A rechargeable battery that uses lithium as an ion in an electrolyte. They also comprise lithium polymer batteries. They have applications such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and power tools.

A lithium cell is defined as a single electrochemical unit containing a single positive and a single negative electrode. A lithium battery is more than two cells linked electrically.

With such a wide range of popular applications – almost any modern electronic device will include a lithium battery – many FCs and ecommerce distributors will ship lithium batteries. Few ecommerce businesses will escape the impact of this new guidance.

Shipping Guidelines for Lithium Batteries

The following guidelines provide an overview of the shipping regulations covering lithium batteries. Refer to the documents referenced above for more comprehensive guidelines, or contact the shipping experts at GO2 Partners to discuss your needs.

  • A significant risk of shipping batteries is short-circuiting caused by the battery terminals contacting a conductive surface, including another battery. Therefore, all packaged lithium cells or batteries should be separated and packed in a strong, rigid and non-conductive material, providing equivalent protection to the equipment normally containing it.
  • Additional package methods include placing each battery in a fully enclosed, non-conductive inner packaged, separating batteries to completely prevent contact with conductive material, or covering any exposed terminals or connectors on the battery.
  • The packaging and the material covering the terminal must be secured for shipment and cushioned during transport. This should prevent shifting or loosening during travel.
  • Shipments containing lithium cells and batteries must contain packing instructions that include the types of batteries in the shipment, procedures for packing the battery, and that the employees involved in the packaging have been adequately trained in the regulations. A record of the training should be available for review.
  • All packages containing lithium cells or batteries require a lithium battery mark as specified in Section II of the packing instructions 965, 966, 967, 968, 969 and 970, and in the requirements of Section IB of packing instructions 965 and 968, and the Class 9 lithium battery hazard label and Cargo Aircraft Only label. The mark is supplied by the IATA and includes red diagonal hatchings that are a minimum of 5mm wide surrounding a symbol on a black and white or contrasting background. Minimum size for the mark is 120mm wide x 110mm high. Smaller packages can reduce the size of the label, but never less than 105mm wide x 74mm high.
  • The label includes space for the UN numbers for the contained batteries, and a phone number for a person knowledgeable of the shipment contents.
  • Lithium ion and lithium metal batteries cannot be shipped alone (by themselves) as cargo on a passenger aircraft. They must be packaged following the Packing Instruction 965, Section IA, IB and II. They must be labelled Cargo Aircraft Only in addition to any other labels or marks.
  • Lithium ion cells and batteries (classified as UN 3480 only) must be shipped at a State of Charge (SOC) no higher than 30% of the rated capacity. Any lithium ion cell or battery that must be shipped at a SOC higher than 30% is covered by Special Provision A331.
  • Lithium metal batteries (classified as UN 3090) covered by Section IA or IB of PI 968, and lithium ion batteries (classified as UN3480) covered by Section IA or IB of PI 965, cannot be packed in the outer packaging of dangerous goods. The dangerous goods covered in this regulation include Class 1 (explosives other Division 1.4S), Division 2.1 (flammable gases), Class 3 (flammable liquids), Division 4.1 (flammable solids), and Division 5.1 (oxidizers). A package with lithium cells or batteries cannot be placed in an overpack of packages containing Class 1 dangerous goods, with exemptions for Division 1.4S, Division 2.1, Class 3, Division 4.1, and Division 5.1.
  • All lithium cells and batteries should be tested using the criteria in the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria Part III Subsection 38.3 (DGR 3.9.2.6) before they are shipped. This will determine the guidelines for packaging and the labeling requirements. The tests will rank the Watt-hour (Wh) measure of the lithium cell or battery. A flow chart detailing the type of battery and the test results, provided by IATA, covers the possible results of the test and requirements for shipments.

Reducing Risk in Ecommerce Distribution

Make sure your business, your employees and your customers are safe and protected.

Review your shipping and labeling procedures to ensure you are following all applicable regulations. If you are unsure of how to implement the new regulations, we suggest contacting the ecommerce shipping experts at GO2 Partners to discuss your operations and procedures.

Often, they can not only make sure you are compliant, but also find ways to increase warehouse and FC efficiency and reduce costs.

Contact GO2 Partners today for more information.

Topics: Ecommerce, Shipping labels, ecommerce distribution