Shipping Lithium Batteries UN 3090, UN 3480, UN 3090, UN 3091, UN 3481
With the rise and popularity of e-Bikes and technology products being powered by or contain lithium batteries, many businesses are unsure how to prepare the correct documentation. Not only that, when sending goods containing lithium batteries overseas, some carriers (international air courier services) may refuse to accept your shipment because of the high risk lithium batteries present.
In this article, we’re going to discover the ways to prepare and ship products containing Lithium Batteries. This includes navigation the complex world of identifying and classifying the type of Lithium Battery contained in the shipment and understanding your role in declaring and preparing the goods for transportation.
Lithium batteries are classified in Class 9 – Miscellaneous dangerous goods as
• UN 3090, Lithium metal batteries; or
• UN 3480, Lithium ion batteries
or, if inside a piece of equipment or packed separately with a piece of equipment to power that equipment as:
• UN 3091, Lithium metal batteries contained in equipment; or
• UN 3091, Lithium metal batteries packed with equipment; and
• UN 3481, Lithium ion batteries contained in equipment; or
• UN 3481, Lithium ion batteries packed with equipment.
Quick Reference Guide to Shipping Lithium Batteries
- Types of Lithium Batteries: Batteries can be categorized into lithium metal (non-rechargeable) and lithium-ion (rechargeable).
- UN Numbers: Lithium metal batteries standalone are UN3090, packed with or contained in equipment are UN3091. Lithium-ion batteries standalone are UN3480, packed with or contained in equipment are UN3481.
- Dangerous Goods Classification: All lithium batteries fall under Class 9, Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods.
- Standalone Batteries: Shipping standalone lithium metal (UN3090) or lithium-ion (UN3480) batteries without being installed in equipment is generally not allowed on passenger aircraft due to their classification as dangerous goods.
- Batteries in Equipment: Lithium metal and lithium-ion cells and batteries installed in the equipment they are intended to operate (UN3091 and UN3481) are mailable, including batteries contained in or packed with equipment.
- Shipping Restrictions: Lithium batteries standalone (not installed in or packed with the equipment they power) are usually forbidden to be shipped as cargo on passenger aircraft.
- Dangerous Goods Contracts: Standalone lithium-ion (UN3480) and lithium metal (UN3090) batteries must be sent as fully regulated dangerous goods, often requiring a Dangerous Goods contract with the courier.
- Packing Instructions for UN3481: Lithium-ion batteries contained in equipment must meet the provisions of Section II of Packing Instruction 967 of the IATA Regulations. There’s a limit of no more than four cells or two batteries per package.
Shipping Lithium Batteries by Air Freight
Shipping lithium batteries by air freight can be a risk due to the potential of batteries short-circuiting and over-heating, which could then cause fire or explosion. Shipping batteries also requires following International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations that specify requirements for shipping, marking, labeling and handling of lithium batteries.
Proper classification and packaging of lithium batteries is also important in preventing any damage to the product or the during shipment. Additionally, when transporting multiple cells or batteries together, there needs to be sufficient space between each battery for them to dissipate heat if necessary.
Shipping overseas may require additional testing per destination country standards as well as tests required by the air carrier of choice. Following all instructions for being compliant with IATA will help ensure safe transport of your goods.
The two main types of battery.
There are two main type of batteries you need to be aware of.
- Lithium-ion (can be recharged).
These are the standard rechargeable batteries and are popular in all type of electronic devices such as mobile phones, e-Bikes, e-Scooters, camcorders, GoPro’s, iPads, laptops and even smart baggage. Small lithium battery-powered vehicles are another item that has been flagged by IATA, classifying such devices as small lithium battery-powered vehicles. Devices such as balance wheels, air wheels, solo wheels, mini balance boards and hoverboards, are classified as UN 3171, battery-powered vehicles.
- Lithium Metal (can NOT be recharged).
These batteries can last longer than the normal alkaline batteries and are frequently found in calculators and toys etc. These batteries cannot be recharged and must be binned when the charge has drained.
Lithium batteries are typically classified under the United Nations (UN) Model Regulations for the Transport of Dangerous Goods. This classification includes three major categories of lithium batteries: Lithium Metal, Lithium Ion, and Lithium Iron Phosphate.
The distinction between these categories is largely related to their individual chemical composition. Each requires a different set of storage, handling, packing and shipping precautions—which will be detailed below—in order to ensure safe transport.
Lithium Metal Batteries – UN 3090/3091
Lithium Metal Batteries contain metallic lithium as an anode material. They have a high energy density but also present a greater risk when transported than other types of battery due to their potential for thermal runaway and fire. These types of battery are classed under 969 Section II with the UN number UN3091. They can be packed in packing groups or as standalone batteries.
Note: Lithium metal batteries packed by themselves (not contained in or packed with equipment) can not be transported as cargo on passenger aircraft. Lithium metal cells or batteries that meet the specified quantity limits may be shipped on a passenger aircraft under an approval issued by the authority of the State of Origin, State of Destination and State of the Operator. Or in the case of urgent medical need, one consignment of lithium batteries may be transported as Class 9 (UN 3090) on passenger aircraft with the prior approval of the authority of the State of Origin and with the approval of the operator. All other lithium metal cells and batteries can only be shipped on a passenger aircraft under exemption issued by all States concerned.
Lithium Ion Batteries (Li-ion batteries) : UN 3480/3481
NOTE: UN3480 Lithium Batteries can not be shipped on their own on a passenger aircraft as commercial cargo.
Lithium Ion Batteries contain a lithium salt as its electrolyte, and use an intercalated lithium compound as one electrode material. These have a lower energy density than Lithium Metal batteries but are widely used in mobile phones and other electronic devices and often require transport via air freight or road freight. This rechargeable battery where the lithium is only present in an ionic form in the electrolyte.These batteries are classed under 966 Section II, with the UN number UN3481. Lithium Ion batteries can be packed in packing groups or contained in equipment.
Lithium metal batteries packed by themselves (not contained in or packed with equipment) can not be transported on a passenger aircraft as cargo. As we all know, passenger aircraft also allocate space in their cargo hold for commercial shipments. In accordance with Special Provision A201, lithium metal cells or batteries that meet the specified quantity limits can be shipped on a passenger aircraft, but only under an approval issued by the authority of the State of Origin, State of Destination and State of the Operator.
Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries
A lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery is a type of lithium-ion battery that is capable of charging and discharging at high speeds compared to other types of batteries. Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries (LiFePO4) are the most stable type of Li-ion battery due to their unique cathode chemistry and low temperature operating range. This makes them the safest choice for transport by air or land, though they have a slightly weaker energy density than other types of Lithium Ion batteries.
Shipping Batteries Containing Lithium
When shipping device containing a lithium battery, there are several considerations and precautions to take. IATA is a good source of information for shippers when sending products containing Lithium batteries. IATA has developed guidance for shippers, freight forwarders, ground handlers, airlines and passengers. The battery must be packed well and be also protected against short circuiting (by wrapping or packing separately). As a package moves along it’s journey it is subjected to bumps and consistent movement, which can result in friction build-up. When batteries get hot, they are more susceptible to combustion. The last thing anyone wants to see is a fire on board an aircraft or truck.
Specific IATA regulations for air freight also need to be followed, such as a limit of 100Wh per battery.
Download the 2023 Lithium Battery Guidance Document from IATA.org – Transport of Lithium Metal and Lithium Ion Batteries. This 27 page PDF, is the go-to guide if shipping batteries is part of your commercial retail or wholesale operation.
Expand your knowledge by reading more documents from IATA (International Air Transport Association).
IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR)
Shipping Lithium Batteries by Air Freight
When shipping lithium batteries by air freight, it is important to understand the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations. According to this regulation, any single cell or battery not exceeding 100Wh (watt-hour) may be transported in accordance with Special Provision A56. Any cells or batteries exceeding 100Wh must be shipped as Class 9 Dangerous Goods and require a Shipping Declaration form that accurately describes the contents of your package.
What is the Special Provision A56 in reference to lithium batteries?
Special Provision A56 provides guidance on how to classify a lithium battery for dangerous goods transport by air. This includes the size and capacity of the battery, how it is packaged and labeled, and any safety precautions that must be followed when handling the lithium batteries during transit.
When shipping a lithium battery by air freight, it is important to consider their flammability risk and use special packaging to ensure safe and trouble-free transportation. Special attention should be paid to labeling requirements so that they can easily be identified on their journey.
The One World Courier platform has been built to cater for the transportation of good containing or separately packed lithium batteries within a shipment. When making a booking through the platform, simply check the lithium battery declaration button and the system will associate the booking with having a Dangerous Goods component. Subsequently, the associated documentation will be also be generated automatically. This is a time-saving process, and as always with One World Courier, we have thought of everything – so you don’t have to.
The Shipping Declaration/document should include the complete technical details of each battery being shipped, including its type, chemical composition, Watt-hour rating and size. In addition, a Shipping Instruction document (or Shipping Authorization Certificate) issued by IATA needs to accompany all packages containing Lithium Ion batteries that exceed 100Wh.
For shipping goods with lithium batteries lower than or equal to 100Wh (100 Watt Hours), a Shipping Declaration also needs to be filled out and submitted for each individual cell or battery being shipped. You must also ensure that the transport packaging carrying these cells or batteries meets applicable packing requirements set by IATA.
When shipping lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries, it is important to note that they don’t fall under any special regulations within the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations. As such, LiFePO4 batteries must also be transported following all applicable regulations stated in the Shipping Instruction document described above.
If you are in any doubt about shipping Lithium Iron Batteries, contact us and we will be able to assist and advise on how to proceed. One World Courier partners with one of Australia’s highly-respected Dangerous Goods inspectors who is always available to also offer advice and guidance when needed. Their expertise can help ensure compliance with all applicable IATA regulations when sending lithium iron batteries – especially by air freight.
By following the above guidelines and ensuring you have a Shipping Declaration, Shipping Instruction document and have identified the correct type of Lithium Iron Battery you can be confident that your Lithium Batteries are being shipped safely and in accordance with international law. More than that – by following these guidelines reduces the likelihood of your goods being refused cartage, additional charges and even fines dished out by Customs Services for non-compliance.
Shipping Lithium Batteries by Air Freight
Moreover, it is important to properly classify any lithium battery that you may be shipping by air freight. Lithium batteries are generally classified as Class 9 Dangerous Goods under the United Nations Model Regulations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. Under this classification, they must be clearly labeled according to the UN model labels: orange diamonds with an appropriate hazard label (e.g., ‘Lithium Battery’), and additional words such as “FOR AIR TRANSPORT ONLY” or “LITHIUM BATTERY-UN3480, PI965”.
By familiarizing yourself with the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and ensuring you have all necessary Shipping Declaration and Shipping Instruction documents in place prior to shipping, you can be sure that your lithium batteries are being safely transported by air freight.
What is the maximum weight of batteries per package contained in equipment?
The maximum weight is 5 kg of lithium batteries per package for passenger and cargo aircraft and 35 kg of lithium batteries per package for cargo aircraft only.
- Passenger aircraft: 5kg
- Cargo aircraft: 35kg
The net quantity shown excludes the weight of the equipment.
- lithium batteries (phones, laptops, eBikes)
Learn more about shipping Lithium Batteries on the IATA website
Storage and handling of Lithium Iron batteries
Lithium batteries must be stored away from flammable materials, kept out of reach of children, and handled with due care to prevent any damage during loading, unloading and transport.
Typically in a storage facility, batteries must also be kept away from damp areas, or areas where they may be affected by the weather. Ideally, a warehouse would allocate a special section to just storing lithium batteries. This is to make accessing the goods easier, as well as to provide easy access and identification of the goods should there be a fire or other incident which may cause the batteries to explode.
If you’re confused or unsure of the lithium batteries you intend to ship, ask the manufacturer or supplier for a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). If it contains a UN number, it’s dangerous goods.
Checklist for Shipping Lithium Iron batteries
- Know the regulations before shipping lithium batteries.
It’s important you know the type and classification of lithium battery contained in the shipment. Follow the regulations before shipping lithium batteries, which as we know are classified as Dangerous Goods (DG). These regulations refer to the types of packaging, documentation and labelling required to ship lithium batteries. Different regulations apply depending on the mode of transport (air, sea, road, rail). One World Courier can advise you on the best method of shipping goods containing lithium batteries, and our online freight booking process has provisions for the declaration of lithium-ion and lithium Metal batteries.
- Get professional advice before preparing a shipment of lithium batteries.
When shipping lithium batteries of any kind, you must familiarise yourself with the regulations and requirements, or seek professional assistance to inspect the goods before shipping. Failure to comply with the international regulations on the transportation of dangerous goods and lithium batteries could result in your business being subjected to substantial fines and sanctions placed on future shipments. If in doubt about shipping batteries, talk to a One World Courier customer support team member. The online freight platform caters for booking batteries, and our team will offer help and assistance to make sure the goods being shipped are suitably packaged for transit.
- Classify and declare your lithium battery shipment correctly
As the shipper of goods containing lithium batteries, you are solely responsible for making sure the boxes, cartons, pallet etc is clearly identifiable as containing lithium iron batteries. The batteries must be packed and labelled and must include the correct customs clearance documentation for the countries/territories of origin and destination. If you’re unsure, always check with the manufacturer or supplier of your goods to discover the correct classification of your dangerous goods. Refer to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for precise clarification.
See the Australian website of Safe Work Australia for more detailed information on the MSDS.
- Pack your shipment of lithium batteries correctly.
All shipments containing lithium batteries (Dangerous Goods) must display the correct labels and contain the United Nations (UN) specification markings. These markings indicate that the packaging meets the standard needed to transport Lithium Batteries/Dangerous Goods. See the current IATA DG Regulations for more information on Dangerous Goods.
As a shipper, you also need to make sure the correct documentation has been completed before shipping, such as:
Airway Bill: Automated Airway Bills can be created by the One World Courier freight management system.
Shipper’s Declaration: A printed Shipper’s Declaration for the majority of Lithium Batteries/Dangerous Goods shipments must be contained and accessible for inspection. This is to certify goods containing Lithium Batteries has been packed, labelled and declared correctly according to the IATA dangerous goods regulations.
Customs Documentation: When arranging a shipment containing Lithium Batteries, the correct customs documentation is absolutely required.
One World Courier has it’s very own Dangerous Goods specialist who can assist with all of the above. The last thing you needs to worry about is whether or not your shipment(s) will be safe and compliant. So please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns about shipping Lithium Batteries by air, sea, rail or road.