Shipping Lithium Batteries in 2023: What Shippers Need to Know

Lithium batteries are found in a variety of devices, including laptops, cell phones, and cameras. While the use of these types of batteries is considered safe, when products with lithium batteries need to be shipped, there are several considerations that must be taken. There is a huge global shipping exchange for lithium batteries—the U.S. alone imports $13.9 billion worth of batteries each year. Because they pose safety risks, lithium batteries need to be properly packaged and shipped.

What Makes Lithium Batteries Different?

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries that are often used in consumer electronics. These types of batteries are used to power many everyday devices from cell phones to e-bikes and also commercial products such as medical devices, power tools, and AED’s (automated external defibrillators). The larger the battery, the more likely to be damaged. Because lithium batteries can be prone to catching on fire, it is important that they are shipped correctly.

The U.S. imports millions of batteries every year with the majority of its lithium-ion batteries coming from China, South Korea and Japan, and exports items that contain them. If your retail business involves the distribution of products like laptops, mobile phones, tablets, or other items that use lithium batteries, shipments must adhere to lithium battery regulations.

Many carriers will accept these types of batteries; however, they must be packaged carefully. DHL, for example, will not accept loose lithium metal batteries under certain shipment services. Lithium batteries must comply with the shipping regulations because they:

  • Are highly flammable
  • Can cause damage if not properly packaged
  • Can produce toxic and irritating fumes
  • Have an increased chance of short-circuiting
  • Are sensitive to the environment

When shipping lithium batteries, it might not always be clear which modes of transportation will be used, or they might go through many modes of transport in route to their final destination. During shipping, it is important that these batteries are correctly packaged, labeled, and stored. If they are being shipped internationally, they must be declared as well.

Lithium Battery Shipping Requirements

Lithium batteries are able to be shipped, however, there are some considerations that must be taken so they arrive safely. Lithium batteries can be shipped domestically including Hawaii and Alaska but there are different requirements to ship domestically and internationally via air.  There is a greater chance of lithium batteries exploding or being damaged during transport so using a reputable carrier that has guidelines for shipping them is recommended. Carriers like USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL are all able to ship these items correctly following the recommended regulations.

Packaging: The packaging of these types of batteries is very important. Batteries should be packaged in a way to prevent short circuiting and must be labeled clearly. The necessary documentation should accompany the batteries, which can vary by destination company and carrier.  The shipment must also be labeled correctly, often with a “Dangerous Goods” label. The package must be packed with the required boxes or insulating material as needed. The shipment might also need to be packed by a person with a Hazmat certification.

Regulations: There are a number of regulations that must be complied with from government agencies and carriers, which both may require approval of the shipment. Regulations change often so it is important to adhere to the latest compliance guidelines. For example, lithium batteries that weigh more than 35kgs must be approved before shipment. Defective or damaged batteries cannot be shipped at all. These must be checked and adhered to prior to shipping.

Documentation: The correct documentation and certifications are also part of the shipping process. Carriers like UPS will ask for additional documents to be signed when shipping a package containing lithium batteries. The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) is required for shipments containing potentially hazardous materials, and may be asked for before the carrier accepts a shipment. The UN38.3 Certificate testifies that the batter has been tested according to UN guidelines. Some of these documents are only valid for a year and after they have expired, cannot be used to book shipments.

Non-Compliance Issues

Non-compliance with these regulations can lead to issues with a shipment, which is it advisable to consult a shipping expert with experience shipping dangerous goods. If a shipper does not comply with the set guidelines on how to ship these items, the shipment could be rejected, and the good with the batteries will not be delivered as it should. Many dangerous items are inspected for non-compliance and the fines can be costly—upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. Or, a battery shipment that is not in compliance with regulations could start a fire or other hazardous situation.

Verizeal for All of Your Lithium Battery Shipping Needs

Verizeal makes it easy to manage all of your shipping, including hazardous items like lithium batteries. We offer a wide range of streamlined shipping solutions to best manage your shipping operations. Verizeal provides the tools and features necessary for documentation generation by automating the compliance checklist for hazmat items, to ensure that your business properly ships lithium batteries to maintain compliance throughout the transportation process.

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