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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.

Comment on this article

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  • John Roach

    March 12, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Airlines should include a term on their MAWB conditions that any shipper violating dangerous goods regulations will be prosecuted by the Airline and a minimum fine of USD 100,000 will be charged.

  • Andy Robins

    March 13, 2015 at 2:49 am

    IATA should work with Alibaba, Amazon etc but also hold them to the fire if there is a DGR breach. The best wake up call is when you hit someones pocket. If they are the portal to the carrier they have responsibilities.

  • Sean hyams

    March 16, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I don’t think that is going to solve problem. Most shippers are educated about the rules and that’s why they find ways of breaking them. The idea here is to make it so that they cannot do this anymore. Unfortunately this is all but impossible in today’s world. The only thing we can hope for is that people understand the risks of what theyre doing wrong and stop. Random checks need to be increased and heavy fines should definitely be imposed. But short of checking on every single consignment there is no other way to effectively stop this from happening. Atleast that’s my view.

  • Samnang CHEY

    March 19, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Airline operators should consider penalising or fining by any means to bring the attention to shippers. Information should be in booking terms and conditions, to be signed, acknowledged and understood about DGR.

  • Jim Powell

    March 29, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    There are so many problems surrounding lithium battery transport, by air and by other modes it’s breathtaking. I put in many hundreds of hours of labor of the better part of a year developing a tool that would make some sense of this all. I ended up with no less than FIFTY-THREE different ways to properly ship lithium batteries by DOT, IATA and IMDG… and this was AFTER the DOT “harmonized” some of their rules… and it’ still 53. There’s no way an average shipper can deal with that. If they’re lucky and just ship ONE type of battery in one configuration by ONE mode, it may be easier, but most have to adopt a worse-case scenario just to keep their sanity… or they have to invest a lot of money in consultants or trainers to make sure it’s right.

    I don’t know about criminal penalties, that’s a rare occurrence these days; there are certainly procedures in place for a “willful” violation of the rules. But there are easier ways:

    Airlines need to push back on the forwarders. Forwarders are required by law to report an undeclared DG shipment to at least the DOT. But I don’t know any that have ever done that unless their feet were held to the fire. The second suggestion is to expand the reporting requirement for “undeclared” shipments in 49 CFR 171.16 to include the consignee. Why? Because they’re the ones who open the boxes and find out it’s not what it was supposed to be. But DOT has explained they don’t want to do it as once it’s received and signed for by the consignee, it’s no longer in transportation.

    Anyway, the stuff is hitting the fan on this pretty rapidly.

    Jim Powell
    Transportation Development Group LLC

  • Jim Powell

    March 29, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    I followed this thread of Linked-in and thought it was from a US site… so pardon my references to DOT regulations and penalties. But the whole topic is the same worldwide. I conducted training for a European E-Bike company and the issues and complexity were pretty much the same, just substitute the ADR for DOT. Though ADR does seem easier.

    • Alex Lennane

      March 30, 2015 at 8:59 am

      Thanks for your comments. We are read globally, so everything is relevant! I’m astonished that it isn’t more uniform than that, and there are 53 different ways to ship a battery – no wonder some shippers fail to comply.