Can You Ship Lithium Batteries Internationally?

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Lithium batteries have become one of the most widely used energy sources for all kinds of different equipment and purposes. They offer incredibly high power density alongside a small size, rechargeability and a lightweight design. This means they’re found in all manner of consumer electronics and it also means that people want to ship them all over the world.

What you may not know, however, is that lithium batteries are actually classified as a dangerous item. This means there are restrictions on how you can dispose of them, use them and ship them. As experts in parcel forwarding, we have some thoughts about this, and we want to help you understand the rules on shipping lithium batteries internationally.

WHAT ARE LITHIUM BATTERIES?

Lithium batteries are a type of energy storage device widely used in portable consumer electronics. They offer a lightweight energy solution for multiple devices that can be recharged by the user. They are popular with smartphones, laptops, tablets, and electric bikes.

There are two families of lithium batteries: lithium-ion and lithium metal.

Types of lithium battery

While the two types of lithium battery are fairly similar, they have notable differences. To help you understand these, we’ll break down each type of lithium battery separately.

  • Lithium metal batteries: these are batteries that use metallic lithium. They use either a metal or compound for their anode and, in general, can’t be recharged.
  • Lithium-ion batteries: Often known as Li-ion batteries, you’ll find that these can be recharged. They contain lithium in electrolyte in the ionic form.

WHAT DEVICES COMMONLY USE LITHIUM BATTERIES?

There are a number of everyday items that contain lithium batteries. We see these coming through our forwarding warehouse all the time, and it’s a good idea for you to understand which electronic devices contain lithium batteries before you order them.

A number of examples include:

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Cameras
  • Vacuum Cleaners
  • Laptops
  • Watches

CAN YOU SHIP LITHIUM BATTERIES OVERSEAS?

The short answer is yes, you can ship lithium batteries overseas.

Lithium batteries are classed as ‘Dangerous Goods’, which means there are certain limitations on how they can be shipped. A charged lithium battery can, under very particular circumstances, catch fire. This means that if you ship charged lithium batteries in bulk, there’s an increased risk of fire on the vehicle that is shipping them.

The longer answer is more complicated than you’re probably expecting. Especially for something as seemingly simple as a battery. But here goes…

If you are shipping lithium metal batteries that are packed with equipment or batteries that are contained within the equipment, you may not need to worry, as long as the metal or alloy cell in the lithium battery does not exceed 1 gram.

With these dangers in mind, there are restrictions on how you can shop them and how they need to be packaged.

What are the shipping regulations from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation?

The regulations state:

  • The cell and batteries must have passed the applicable UN tests
  • Terminals must be protected against potential short circuits
  • Packaging limits are met
  • Packaging requirements are met for both inner and outer packaging
  • All packages are labelled correctly
  • All documentation is adequately completed

How to package lithium batteries for shipping

The IATA states that all packaging used for shipping lithium batteries must have a strong and rigid external layer. The overall requirements for packaging for shipping lithium batteries are:

  • The outer packaging must be rigid and strong
  • Lithium batteries must be individually packaged within the inner packaging
  • Batteries must be shielded and protected to prevent short circuits
  • Packaging must meet standards set by the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria - it must be tested
  • The correct labels must be attached
  • The required documentation must be included

Do I need documentation, marking or labels?

You’ll need both completed documentation and the right labels to ship lithium batteries internationally.

Documentation:

The documentation required to ship your lithium batteries by air and around the world is known as the “Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods”. This document must be completed for all dangerous goods, not just lithium batteries and the fields it contains are:
  • Shipper name and address
  • Consignee name and address
  • Air Waybill Number (generally completed by the freight forwarder)
  • Page of pages numbers
  • Aircraft Limitations
  • Airport of Departure (optional)
  • Airport of Destination (optional)
  • Shipment Type
  • Nature and Quantity of Dangerous Goods
  • Number and Type of Packaging
  • Packing Instructions
  • Authorizations
  • Additional Handling Information
  • Certification Statement
  • Name of Signatory
  • Date 
  • Signature
     

Labeling for lithium battery shipping:

You will be required to label any package that contains lithium batteries. This label will alert anyone that is transporting or handling the package that it contains a dangerous item and what that dangerous item is. The label also provides instructions as to where it must be placed on the transport and what to do if there is a problem.

You must make sure that a lithium battery label is applied to the package in a durable way, so it won’t come off easily. It must also be easily visible and sized properly.

Is there a limit on the number of batteries in each package?

You’re limited on the number of lithium batteries or lithium cells that you send in every package. You can only send a maximum of 2 lithium batteries or 4 lithium cells, regardless of whether they are lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries.

What products we cannot ship with lithium batteries
 

Generally, we are unable to ship E-bikes containing lithium ion batteries as they are over 100 wh in size, we are not accredited to ship this size of battery on their networks.  These are also classified as vehicles if shipped with the battery inside.  Similar items with the same regulations are E-Scooters and Hoverboards, we are unable to ship these items too.

A number of examples include:

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Cameras
  • Vacuum Cleaners
  • Laptops
  • Watches

How does this all work with package forwarding at forward2me?

When you order through forward2me you shouldn’t have to worry too much about lithium batteries as, generally, if you’ve ordered it online it will be fit for shipping. However, where things may get awkward is when you are shipping something internationally that previously was only meant to ship internally, or when you want to use our Combine & Repack service.

If you have any questions about shipping items with li-ion batteries, contact our Customer Services before ordering the item. 

If you’re not sure where you can buy an item with li-ion batteries, check out our guides to shopping at the UK’s top online stores or see our recommended top online stores in Germany

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