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IATA members have called on governments to criminalise the act of shipping misdeclared dangerous goods.
In an strong speech to delegates at the World Cargo Symposium in Shanghai, James Woodrow, head of IATA’s Cargo Committee and chief of Cathay Pacific Cargo, told the industry it must unite to stop non-declared dangerous goods being sent by air.
“Flagrant abuses of dangerous goods shipping regulations, which place aircraft safety at risk, must be criminalised, as are other actions which place aircraft safety at risk,” he said. “Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for regulating producers and exporters.”
The industry has seen an increase in the mislabelling of batteries and in non-declared shipments – in particular from e-commerce sites which use normal postal services.
Mr Woodrow’s remarks echoed comments by IATA CEO Tony Tyler, who noted that a supplier on Ali Baba claimed it would re-label 300-watt-hour batteries as 100-watt-hours simply so they could be sent by air without restrictions.
Recent research from the US FAA concluded that badly packaged batteries could cause fires and threaten aircraft.
“Disappointingly, we are seeing some wilful non-compliance in the area of lithium batteries,” said Mr Tyler.
He added: “The rise of e-commerce and the ability of small businesses to export to a global audience has created a significant new market of shippers who are not necessarily familiar with the rules.”
IATA said it was working with Ali Baba and other e-commerce companies to help try to educate shippers.
It also called for labelling at post offices and the wide dissemination of information.
“The problem is not with the regulations, but with people who don’t conform to regulations,” said IATA Cargo chief Glyn Hughes.
Pledging a series of campaigns both to widen awareness and try to make non-declaration a criminal offence, he added that counterfeit batteries should also be more heavily regulated. “There is a double risk here – and it’s a consumer safety issue.”
Mr Woodrow said the industry would try to ensure shippers who obeyed the rules were not affected by any more stringent measures.
“We must increase the level of shipment assessments and trusted shipper programmes, in order that those who comply with the regulations are not unduly impacted, and call upon reputable manufacturers in the hi- tech sector to join us in this demand.”
Somewhat ironically, at the event companies handed out battery banks for delegates. IATA issued a warning that they must be carried in hand luggage, not aircraft holds.