Air Cargo Newsdesk

Record fine of $1.1m after lithium batteries air cargo blaze

$1.1m record ‘fine’ after lithium battery air cargo blaze

AVIATION regulators in the USA have imposed a record fine of US$1.1million after lithium ion batteries burst into flames and destroyed a FedEx truck – shortly after being carried on an aircraft – it is claimed.

The alleged fire-blazing violation of hazardous air cargo rules came despite prior warnings issued to the shipper by the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration, writes Nigel Tomkins.

The proposed penalty has been levied after a shipment of lithium batteries caught fire while being transported on a FedEx truck – after it had been transported on an aircraft – resulting in the total destruction of the vehicle.

The FAA is proposing the $1.1 million civil penalty against Braille Battery Inc of Sarasota, Florida, for allegedly violating the hazardous materials regulations.

It is the largest civil penalty the FAA has ever proposed for alleged violations of the requirements for offering an air shipment of lithium batteries.

The FAA says that on June 1, 2016, Braille offered four shipments, each containing a 24-volt lithium ion battery, to FedEx for transportation by air.

One of the batteries caught fire while it was being transported on a FedEx truck – after it had been transported on an aircraft – resulting in the destruction of the vehicle, it is claimed.

The FAA alleges that the lithium batteries in these shipments did not meet testing standards contained in the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria or the US Hazardous Material Regulations, were not equipped with a means of preventing dangerous reverse current flow, and were not in a proper condition for shipment.

The FAA further alleges Braille failed to provide its employees with the required hazardous materials training.

On June 8, 2016, the FAA informed Braille about concerns regarding its training programme.

On June 14 and June 15, 2016, the FAA informed Braille that the Hazardous Materials Regulations and the ICAO Technical Instructions prohibit the shipment of lithium ion batteries that are not proven to meet the UN testing standards.

Despite this, Braille continued to offer shipments of lithium ion batteries for air transportation on 14 separate occasions between July 14, 2016 and August 3, 2016, the FAA alleges.

The shipments included a total of 77 batteries. Each shipment contained between one and 27 batteries.

“Improperly shipped hazardous material can pose serious threats to aircraft and to the people on board,” says FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Adhering to the Hazardous Materials Regulations is critical to ensuring safety.”

The FAA had previously levied an $8,000 civil penalty against Braille in 2013 for shipping undeclared lithium ion batteries.

Braille has been given 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency’s allegations.

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