IATA turns its attention to China’s air transport of lithium ion batteries

With recent concerns over a number of incidents involving fires on board planes that have resulted from faults with lithium ion batteries, IATA have now turned their attention to China’s air transport of such items. Their major concern, as put by their Director General Tony Tyler, is that “Disappointingly, we are seeing some wilful non-compliance in the area of lithium batteries, particularly in China.” This comes from an industry forum in Beijing. China is responsible for the production of a massive number of lithium ion batteries – Panasonic Sanyo, who holds a 41% share of the manufacturing market, has major production facilities in Suzhou, Wuxi and Beijing, while in 2014 Samsung invested US$600m in building China’s largest manufacturing base for lithium ion batteries in Shaanxi province.
In March, Boeing warned that packages of lithium batteries, as in those used in mobile phones and laptops, pose fire risks if packed tightly and in large numbers, and as a result lithium ion batteries should not be transported on passenger planes until appreciably safer means of transporting them by air are developed. Boeing made it very clear that the risk is “continually increasing and requires action to be taken.” However Chinese officials were quick to point out that despite IATA’s concerns, China has one of the world’s best aviation safety records. China’s number of passengers has risen by 11.1% annually from 2010 to 2014, while its accident rate for each one million flying hours was only 0.03, a figure which is appreciably lower than the world average of 0.2. Additionally, major accidents per one million flights stood at 0.07, which is far lower than world average of 0.39, during the same period.

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