Dodgy suppliers of lithium-ion batteries are putting aircraft in serious danger which has led to tough new punishments to try to put a stop to it.
It can now be revealed that companies are deliberately trying to conceal batteries in cargo to flout new rules.
Passengers are also putting planes at risk by using batteries which fail to meet safety criteria to power electronic devices ranging from mobile phones to laptops – and with the market for lithium-ion batteries growing by almost a quarter each year this problem is only going to get worse.
It means the risk caused by poorly made or uncertified lithium batteries on aircraft is increasing year on year, so much so that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says it’s now time to take a tough stance.
They want information on rogue shippers to be shared between IATA members and are asking governments to give harsher fines and penalties for those who have been caught flouting the regulations and putting safety at risk.
Lithium battery shipments are still allowed on cargo aircraft, but have been banned from passenger aircraft since 2016. Some dodgy freight companies are thought to be ignoring the ban with a few even lying on the paperwork with false shipping declarations. One shipper declared 2,000kg of lithium batteries as children’s toys and clothing in an attempt to sneak the shipment on a passenger flight and avoid paying higher cargo charges.
If they overheat and catch fire they burn at such high intensity that sprinkler systems in cargo holds simply can’t cope.
According to online airline news organisation Simple Flying: “Hand in hand with the rising demand for lithium-ion batteries comes an increase in the number of rogue shippers introducing fake or dangerous batteries to the marketplace. These batteries pose a dual threat to aviation.
“Firstly, they may be misdeclared or undeclared in cargo shipments. Batteries which are poorly manufactured or not subjected to mandatory safety testing have the potential to catch fire or even explode. When fake batteries are misdeclared as real ones, or potentially not declared at all, they could end up in the cargo hold of passenger aircraft.
“Secondly, as these batteries make their way into the consumer market they continue to pose a threat to the safety of aviation. Housed in innocuous devices such as laptops, smartphones and cameras, fake batteries still carry a risk of fire or explosion.
“Although much is being done to ensure all items with lithium batteries are kept in cabin baggage where passengers and flight attendants are more likely to notice and be able to deal with any fire, the lack of screening for lithium batteries in hold baggage means there is still a risk they could end up in the hold.”
In a bid to tackle the problem a new IATA campaign wants an incident reporting and alert system for airlines, allowing real time information about dangerous goods incidents to be shared within the industry alongside a major awareness campaign in places where compliance has been failing and one that will also target customs authorities.
Many airline companies now carry fire containment bags in the passenger cabin to deal with any overheating batteries.
AvSax are the world’s best-selling aircraft fire containment bags by far and are now on more than 15,373 aircraft operated by 75 airline companies across the world and have been used 32 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017. AvSax won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the UK in 2018.