March 10, 2015 / 10:10 PM / in 3 years

UPDATE 1-Boeing says lithium batteries pose cargo risk, backs ban

(Adds details from Boeing, context)

NEW YORK, March 10 (Reuters) - Boeing Co said on Tuesday that high-density packages of lithium batteries like those used in cell phones and laptops pose fire risks and should not be carried on passenger planes until safer methods for carrying them are developed.

The risk is “continually increasing (and) requires action to be taken,” the aircraft maker said in a statement in response to questions from Reuters.

Boeing is part of an industry group including other plane makers such as Bombardier Inc and Airbus Group NV , that found current firefighting systems on airliners can not “suppress or extinguish a fire involving significant quantities of lithium batteries,” posing an “unacceptable risk” for the industry.

The main chemical used, Halon 1301, is unable to stop fires from rechargeable lithium ion or non-rechargeable lithium metal batteries, the two main types of cells in consumer devices, the industry group said in a report.

Boeing said it agrees with the recommendations in the report by the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industry Associations and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations.

The report is due to be considered in April by a working group of the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a standards setting body.

ICAO said that to take effect, the recommendations would need to be approved by its dangerous goods panel in October, and then by a broader air safety council next year. If approved, they would be included in the 2017-2018 edition of ICAO’s technical instructions for dangerous goods transport.

The ICCAIA-IFALPA report recommends:

-banning shipments of high-density packages of lithium ion batteries and cells on passenger aircraft until safer transport methods are implemented

-establishing appropriate packaging and shipping requirements to carry lithium ion batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft

-establishing appropriate packaging and shipping requirements to carry lithium metal and lithium ion batteries as cargo on freight aircraft.

“The Boeing Company supports and advocates for global harmonized requirements related to the air transport of batteries. We support efforts to develop effective protective packaging materials to facilitate the safe shipment of lithium batteries as cargo.”

The U.S. in 2008 banned carrying lithium metal batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft, unless they are shipped with or in equipment, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But lithium ion batteries are allowed as cargo on both passenger and freight aircraft as long as the packages do not exceed 11 pounds (five kilograms), the agency said. (Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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