Rogue companies are mislabelling boxes of lithium-ion batteries in a bid to flout an airline ban, it has been revealed.
They have been banned from aircraft holds since 2016 amid fears they could catch fire and bring a plane down.
Now Reuters has revealed that some companies are describing the batteries as clothes and shoes to get around the legislation.
New global packaging standards expected in late 2018 will allow lithium-ion batteries back into passenger plane cargo holds, pending design and regulatory approval, but some airlines say the new rule overlooks other safety concerns.
It will reverse a 2016 suspension due to fire risks, but some airlines argue that packaging alone will not fully protect against cargo battery fires because battery shipments are sometimes mislabelled. Airlines and battery makers want jet designs to factor in better cargo fire-safety measures.
Carriers interviewed by Reuters described finding packages of mislabelled lithium-ion batteries, often by shippers trying to avert the ban. Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department, the regulator of the world's busiest air cargo hub, flagged cases of battery packages mislabelled in manifests as clothes, shoes and toys in a 2017 notice to airlines.
It is not clear how many mislabelled battery packages are transported by air, or discovered, but carriers fear it could continue as some shippers try to avoid the anticipated higher costs of proper packaging.
Association of Asia Pacific Airlines Director-General Andrew Herdman said: "The sheer number of batteries produced is growing and is measured in the billions. There is a problem with false declaration or non-declaration of such items."
In January, the US Federal Aviation Administration identified at least 191 "events" involving lithium batteries producing smoke, fire, extreme heat or explosions in the air or at airports around the world since 1991.
For more on this go to https://www.reuters.com/article/us-aviation-safety-batteries/better-battery-packaging-on-planes-overlooks-other-safety-concerns-airlines-idUSKBN1HY2O0
* AvSax fire containment bags are now on board several major airlines worldwide and were deployed 27 times in 2017.
If an electronic device starts to seriously overheat or emit smoke the cabin crew will pour at least two litres of water into an AvSax. It is imperative to first knock down the flames from the device using an on board halon fire extinguisher, then transfer the device into AvSax before it reignites. Additional water is then required. The water activates the polymer gel inside the bag causing it to expand around the device. Should the device keep on venting then the AvSax is tough enough to absorb the energy.
The AvSax cools the batteries in the device, reducing the likelihood of the battery igniting but if it does go into thermal runaway it is all contained within the bag.
Amazingly, the water is absorbed into the internal lining of the bag so the device is dry when it is removed.