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Thu 12 Dec 2019 02:22 PM

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Aviation chiefs target lithium batteries, 9 years after fatal Dubai crash

Aviation authorities have announced they are amplifying their efforts to ensure the safe air transport of lithium batteries

Aviation chiefs target lithium batteries, 9 years after fatal Dubai crash

Lithium batteries were blamed for a fire onboard a UPS cargo plane, which crashed in Dubai on its way from Hong Kong on September 3, 2010.

Aviation authorities have announced they are amplifying their efforts to ensure the safe air transport of lithium batteries, nine years after a fatal crash in Dubai.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), in partnership with the Global Shippers Forum (GSF), the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) and the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), are also renewing calls for governments to crack down on manufacturers of counterfeit batteries and of mis-labeled and non-compliant shipments introduced into the supply chain, by issuing and enforcing criminal sanctions on those responsible.

Lithium batteries were blamed for a fire onboard a UPS cargo plane, which crashed in Dubai on its way from Hong Kong on September 3, 2010.

The two pilots on board struggled to land the plane amid thick smoke and low emergency oxygen. Both were killed.

A report at the time by the UAE’s civil aviation authority said the lithium batteries should have been declared hazardous cargo. 

Consumer demand for lithium batteries is growing by 17 percent annually. With it, the number of incidents involving misdeclared or undeclared lithium batteries has also risen, IATA said in a statement.

“Dangerous goods, including lithium batteries, are safe to transport if managed according to international regulations and standards. But we are seeing an increase in the number of incidents in which rogue shippers are not complying. The industry is uniting to raise awareness of the need to comply,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president, Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security.

The campaign includes three specific initiatives including a new incident reporting and alert system for airlines, industry awareness campaign on the dangers of shipping undeclared and misdeclared lithium batteries and the facilitation of a joined-up industry approach.

Currently air cargo is scanned for items that pose a risk to security such as explosives, but not safety such as lithium batteries.

IATA said governments must also play their role with much stricter enforcement of international regulations to ensure the safe transport of these vital shipments.

“Safety is aviation’s top priority. Airlines, shippers and manufacturers have worked hard to establish rules that ensure lithium batteries can be carried safely. But the rules are only effective if they are enforced and backed-up by significant penalties. Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for stopping rogue producers and exporters. Abuses of dangerous goods shipping regulations, which place aircraft and passenger safety at risk, must be criminalised,” said Glyn Hughes, IATA’s global head of cargo.

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