April 23, 2015 / 12:28 PM / 2 years ago

Rise of e-commerce poses safety concern for China's air transport: IATA

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s booming e-commerce industry and the ability of the country’s small businesses to export hazardous materials are posing a safety concern for the country’s air transport industry, the head of the International Air Transport Association warned on Thursday.

Ensuring the safe transport of lithium batteries is of particularly importance, due to the complex supply chains involved, IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler told an industry forum in Beijing.

“Disappointingly, we are seeing some wilful non-compliance in the area of lithium batteries, particularly in China,” Tyler said.

“It would be a shame if China’s exemplary safety record were compromised because of such negligence.”

Boeing Co warned in March 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.

However, Chinese aviation officials stressed the safety record of Chinese airlines. Over the past five years, Chinese carriers beat world averages for safety, despite double-digit annual growth of passenger volume, Wu Chengchang, safety chief of the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.

The country’s air passenger volume has been rising by 11.1 percent annually during 2010-2014, but its accident rate for each one million hours was merely 0.03, significantly lower than the world average to 0.2, Wu added.

Major accidents per one million flights stood at 0.07, also better than world average of 0.39, during the period, he added.

Tyler also called for better coordination between the country’s civil aviation authority and the military to minimize the impact of military exercises on civilian airline service.

China has been scrambling to build airports across the country to keep pace with its fast-growing civil aviation market, but its military-controlled airspace has made flight delays the norm.

Military drills can also be a big headache. In July 2014, drills led to a near shutdown of 20 airports in eastern China, with air traffic capacity falling by as much as three-quarters at Shanghai’s two main airports.

Earlier in the month, China announced a plan to open 10 new air corridors to help ease chronic air traffic congestion and address the problem of frequent flight delays.

Reporting by Fang Yan and Matthew Miller; Editing by Vincent Baby

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