UPU agrees rules on international mailing of lithium batteries

UPU agrees rules on international mailing of lithium batteries

New international mailing rules agreed between the postal and civil aviation industries are set to end the ban on posts sending packages containing lithium batteries and cells from the beginning of 2013.

Lithium batteries are classified as dangerous goods by the United Nations and have been banned from the international air space.

But the Universal Postal Union and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have been working to harmonize their respective technical instructions to admit the air transportation of postal items containing lithium batteries that are “properly packed”.

Posts wanting to apply the new rule as of 1 January 2013 have to coordinate training initiatives for postal staff with their national civil aviation authority, the UPU said.

Lithium-ion batteries are common in consumer electronics and particularly in products like computers and mobile phones, and are one of the most popular types of rechargeable battery for portable electronics. They are also growing in popularity for military, electric vehicle, and aerospace applications.

If dropped, crushed, or short-circuited, these batteries can release dangerous amounts of heat and may ignite, and are dangerous in fires.

Lithium batteries were blamed for the crash of a United Parcel Service plane in Dubai during 2010, with the Dubai government’s civil aviation authority stating in an accident report that a shipment had not been properly declared or packed.

Under the new rules posts will be able to accept international mail items containing equipment with up to four lithium cells or two lithium batteries already installed in the equipment being sent by post from January 2013.

The rule changes came in response to requests from UPU member countries, particularly in view of the growth in e-commerce and to be able to better meet customers’ delivery needs, the UPU said.


The new UPU-ICAO agreement came just days after the world’s largest postal service by volume, the US Postal Service, adopted a new rule to prevent customers from mailing lithium batteries internationally, effective from 16 May, 2012.
The ban does not apply to items mailed within the US or its territories, and the USPS said it anticipates the total ban will run until January 2013, when the new UPU-ICAO rules will apply, allowing mailing of “specific quantities” of lithium batteries internationally when “properly installed in the personal electronic devices they are intended to operate”.
In the mean time, the ban applies to outbound international mailing of mailpieces containing lithium metal or lithium-ion cells, “whether the cells or batteries are packed
in equipment, with equipment, or
without equipment”.
“Until such time that a less restrictive policy can be implemented consistent
with international standards, and in accordance with UPU Convention, lithium batteries are not permitted in international mail,” said USPS in its final rule adopted 14 May.

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