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Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries may soon have to be imported by other means than air shipments after at least eighteen airlines have banned shipments of the product this year following devastating cargo fires such as the one that caused a United Parcel Service (UPS) freighter to crash near Dubai in 2010.
As Insurance Journal reports, pilots have been calling for the batteries to be taken off of all passenger flights until there is a better method safely to transport them. Four of the world’s top ten cargo carrier lines have removed the shipments, including Emirates, Cathay Pacific Airways, Cargolux Airlines International SA, and Qatar Airways. Additionally, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines Group, and United Airlines have banned them from all flights.
According to HomeLand Security News Wire ,some have speculated that removing lithium-ion batteries from major air freight could disrupt the global supply chains for the technology, which is used to power products including Apple iPhones, laptops by Lenovo Group, and defibrillator power units. Roughly 30 percent of the 5.5 billion cell batteries produced each year are shipped by plane.
In tests conducted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2005 and 2006, the batteries were found to be able to burst open and spray highly flammable liquid which could ignite adjacent cells and lead to intensive fire.
Incidents of “fire, smoke, extreme heat and explosions” involving the batteries were reported to the FAA eleven times last year. In both the 2010 Dubai accident and a similar incident in 2011 over Australia, smoke filled parts of the plane, with it even entering the cockpit in the case of the 2010 case, which involved the transport of 81,000 units.