Lithium batteries can go back on board

Fire containment bag allows Cathay Pacific Cargo to lift freighter embargo

Cathay Pacific Cargo is now able to carry shipments of lithium-ion batteries (UN3480 PI965 Section 1A and 1B) on its freighter aircraft thanks to a new fire containment bag. Introducing this new safety solution means the embargo on battery shipments will be lifted.

The fire containment bags come in two sizes, for shipments up to 30kg and 50kg per bag, and are available at all of Cathay Pacific Cargo’s 46 freighter destinations. The 30kg bag is able to hold 500-600 batteries of the type used in smartphones, for example.

Cargo Products Manager Alex Leung said: ‘These new fire containment bags have been thoroughly tested and meet our stringent safety requirements, and they have also been approved by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).’In the event of a battery combusting, the bags limit the fire’s supply of oxygen, while letting smoke escape to trigger the aircraft’s smoke detectors.

With this approved safety product, Cathay Pacific Cargo has been able to lift its embargo on shipping lithium-ion batteries in its freighters. The embargo affected standalone shipments of batteries, but not those inside electronic consumer goods such as laptops, smartphones and tablets.

However, the embargo on battery shipments on Cathay Pacific’s passenger aircraft remains in force. Head of Cargo Market and Products John Cheng explained: ‘We follow the IATA rule that states that lithium batteries cannot be shipped in cargo on passenger aircraft.’

In addition, the new fire containment bags are not certified to carry non-rechargeable lithium metal batteries, which have a different internal chemistry and behave in a different way. Shippers will also need to complete forms outlining their particular type of batteries with Cathay Pacific Cargo’s local sales teams.

Alex Leung (left) and John Cheng (right)

John said: ‘It’s a quick process that sales teams will be delighted to talk customers through. Once the shipper forwards the required information, the turnaround for approval takes three working days and is valid for one year for the same type of battery.’

Alex added: ‘This new fire containment product enables us to serve this growing market. We are continually looking at new solutions that will cater for bigger battery sizes and bigger quantities, such as those used in the electric car industry.’