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UN panel agrees to ban lithium battery on airliners

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Washington / AP

A UN panel approved a temporary ban on cargo shipments of rechargeable lithium batteries on passenger planes because they can create intense fires capable of destroying an aircraft.
The decision by the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organisation’s top-level governing council isn’t binding, but most countries follow the agency’s standards. The ban is effective on April 1.
“This interim prohibition will continue to be in force as separate work continues through ICAO on a new lithium battery packaging performance standard, currently expected by 2018,” said Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, the ICAO council’s president.
Namrata Kolachalam, a Transportation Department spokeswoman, called the ban “a necessary action to protect passengers, crews, and aircraft from the current risk toaviation safety.”
Lithium-ion batteries are used in a vast array of products from cellphones and laptops to some electric cars. About 5.4 billion lithium-ion cells were manufactured worldwide in 2014. A battery is made up of two or more cells. A majority of batteries are transported on cargo ships, but about 30 percent are shipped by air.
Airlines flying to and from the US that accept lithium battery shipments carry 26 million passengers a year, the Federal Aviation Administration estimates.
PRBA — The Rechargeable Battery Association, which opposed the ban, said in a statement that the industry is preparing to comply with the ban, but there may be “significant disruption in the logistics supply chain”. Aviation authorities have long known that the batteries can self-ignite and create fires.

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