How to Ship X
How to Ship Lithium Batteries

How to Ship Lithium Batteries

Proper packaging and labeling are vital when shipping battery products. Failure to do so could result in millions of dollars worth of damages.

8 mins read, 18 Jan 2020
Bookairfreight’s Key Takeaways:

• The packaging and labelling instructions for shipping electronics varies from air freight and ocean freight.

• You’ll need to get a UN38.3 test certification proof from your supplier in order to ship lithium battery products.

• Work with experienced freight forwarders to make sure your electronics get shipped safely.

First, Know if Your Device or Battery Is Classified as a ‘Dangerous Good’

All these super strict rules are applicable to Dangerous Goods (DG), which are goods with hazardous components - and often,  batteries are considered as DG.

How do you know if your battery is a DG?

All lithium batteries and devices with lithium batteries are considered to be hazardous! They are applicable to DG rules when transporting.

There’s generally two types of lithium batteries:

Lithium-ion Batteries:
rechargeable batteries found in laptops, phones, cameras.
Lithium Metal Batteries:
non-rechargeable, disposable batteries
found in watches, remotes.
how to ship lithium ion batteries
how to ship lithium metal batteries

For each battery type, there is a specific UN Number, a four-digit number that identifies dangerous or hazardous substances and goods.

Shipping Name
UN Number
Lithium-ion Batteries - Shipping Loose Batteries
UN3480
UN3481
Lithium-ion Batteries Packed WITH or IN the device
Lithium-Metal Batteries - Shipping Loose Batteries
UN3090
Lithium-Metal Batteries Packed WITH or IN the device
UN3091

What types of batteries are not considered DG?

“Dry cell” batteries are not listed as DG or hazardous materials in the international regulations.

Common examples of Dry cell batteries include alkaline, nickel cadmium, and carbon zinc batteries.

Dry cell example (AA batteries):

shipping lithium batteries

So, You’re Shipping Lithium Batteries, What Should You Do Next?

1. Use proper labels

Make sure to check your specific freight carrier’s battery labeling requirements.

But, here are the common rules that everyone must follow as authorised by the UN.

For ALL Lithium Battery Shipments (applicable for all transportation including air and ocean):

🚨 From January 2019, it is mandatory to apply:  

• Lithium battery label

• Class 9 lithium battery hazard class label

For Lithium-ion Battery Shipments by Air:

Lithium-ion batteries can only be shipped on cargo aircraft (not allowed in passenger aircrafts anymore!), You need to apply:

• Lithium battery Label

• Class 9 lithium battery hazard class label

• Cargo aircraft only label.

Lithium Battery
Label
Hazardous Class 9 Label
Cargo Aircraft Only Label
lithium battery shipping label
hazardous class 9 shipping label
cargo aircraft only shipping label

2. Follow proper packaging


Packaging rules aren’t just about adding more protective layers of material or using the appropriate box. They also refer to weight, capacity restrictions, and the number of batteries allowed per shipment:

General Packaging Rules:
How to package battery products.

1) For Loose Batteries: 

Require an additional layer of packaging -  such as insulated caps or leak-proof liner to prevent short circuits.

2) For Devices with Batteries:

Each device must be packaged individually with:

Non-conductive tape

An extra cushion layer to prevent the device from moving and accidentally turning on during handling.


We’ve listed out the packaging requirements for air and ocean freight below, which your factories should be aware of. But it doesn’t hurt you to know them too!

✈️ Transporting lithium batteries by Air

The UN guidelines to ship battery products depend on battery size and weight restrictions.

1) For Lithium-ion batteries - loose batteries (UN3480)

Packing instruction 965:

Max. Battery
or Cell Size
Weight
or Number Restriction
Additional Notes
Cell: 20Wh or less
Battery: 100 Wh or less
• No more than 8 cells or 2 batteries per packaging

• 10 kg net per packaging

• Batteries CANNOT be charged for more than 30% of its capacity
• Must include Lithium Caution and Cargo Aircraft Only Label

• May be shipped by courier or mail
Cell: 20 Wh or less
Packs*: 100 Wh or less
• 10kg for cargo per package

• Batteries CANNOT be charged for more than 30% of its capacity
Subject to class 9 requirements! Personnel carrying these batteries must be certified
Cell: 20 Wh or less
Packs*: 100 Wh or less
Cell: 20 Wh or less
Packs*: 100 Wh or less
Cell: larger than 20 Wh
Packs*: Larger than 100Wh
• 35kg for cargo per package Batteries CANNOT be charged for more than 30% of its capacity
N/A

*packs refer to a set of multiple of identical batteries or battery cells.

2) For Lithium-ion batteries WITH and IN the device (UN3481)

Packaging instructions 966 and 967:

Max. Battery
or Cell Size
Weight
or Number Restriction
Additional Notes
Cell: 20 Wh or less
Packs: 100 Wh or less
• 5 kg for passenger aircraft

• 35 kg for cargo aircraft
• Must include Lithium Caution and Cargo Aircraft Only Label

• 30% charge rule DOESN'T apply
Cell: 20 Wh or less
Packs*: 100 Wh or less
• 5 kg for passenger aircraft

• 35 kg for cargo aircraft
• Subject to class 9 requirements!

• Personnel carrying these batteries must be certified

• 30% charge rule DOESN'T apply

3) For Lithium-metal batteries - loose batteries (UN3090)

Packaging instruction 968:

Battery or Cell Size
Weight
or Number Restriction
Additional Notes
• Lithium-Metal Content (LMC) must be 0.3g or less per unit.

• LMC must be 1g or less in cells

• LMC must be 2g or less per battery
• 2.5kg weight limit, No limit in number

• 8 cells

• 2 battery packs
• Must include Lithium Caution and Cargo Aircraft Only Label

• May be shipped by courier or mail
Lithium-Metal in:

• Cells exceed 1g
• Battery exceed 2g
• 2.5 kg for passenger aircraft

• 2.5 kg for cargo per package
Subject to Class 9 Requirements! Personnel carrying these batteries must be certified
Lithium-Metal in:

• Cells exceed 1g
• Battery exceed 2g
• 5kg for passenger aircraft

• 3kg for cargo per package
Subject to Class 9 Requirements! Personnel carrying these batteries must be certified

4) For lithium metal batteries WITH and IN the device (UN3091)

Packaging instruction 969 and 970:

Battery
or Cell Size
Weight
or Number Restriction
Additional Notes
Metal Content (MC) in cells less than 1g or in battery packs less than 2g
• 5 kg for passenger aircraft

• 5 kg for cargo aircraft
• Must include Lithium Caution and Cargo Aircraft Only Label

• May be shipped by courier or mail
Exceeding 1g in cells and 2g in Packs
• 5 kg for passenger aircraft

• 35 kg for cargo aircraft

Subject to Class 9 Requirements! Personnel carrying these batteries must be certified

🚢 Transporting lithium batteries by Ocean

As mentioned earlier, the regulations for shipping by ocean are a lot more relaxed.

The lithium batteries and cells must be packaged fully with a protective layer or non-conductive tape to prevent short circuits.

Labelling Requirements:

Each package must be marked with the

• Lithium Caution Label

• Hazardous class 9 Label

Lithium Metal Caution Label
Lithium Ion Caution Label
Hazardous Class 9 Label
lithium metal caution shipping label
Lithium ion caution shipping label
hazardous class 9 shipping label

3. Follow proper testing criteria

Lithium ion and Lithium-metal cells and batteries are listed as Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods regulations - they must meet the UN38.3 test requirements set by the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria.

What is the "UN38.3 certification"?

It is a series of tests ranging from height simulation test, thermal test, vibration test, impact test, external short circuit test, to see if the goods are capable of being transported and used safely.

What does it look like?

It’s simply a test report. here's a UN38.3 certification:

UN38.3 certification

Who takes care of the testing?

Manufacturers or distributors of cells or batteries will take care of the test and attach the results to each shipment containing lithium batteries.

Once again, for all these requirements,  your factories must be aware and take care of them! So, don’t stress too much, this is just for your own reference.

Even if You Follow These Rules, It’ll Still Be Hard to Ship Electronics.


It really depends on the forwarder or carrier - they can refuse to take battery related shipments anytime. So, you really need to work with experienced forwarders. 


Using Bookairfreight, you can partner with leading tier 1 freight forwarders who deeply understand what documentation is required for customs and how to best handle goods in transit for safe, timely delivery.


We’ve helped many businesses, such as Lumos and Soundbrenner successfully ship electronic products containing batteries.


We’d be thrilled to help you too! Message us at bookings@bookairfreight.com for any questions! 


You can also visit the following pages for more information.  


✈️ Air Freight: 

IATA’s Regulations on Shipping Lithium Batteries

ICAO’s Regulations on Shipping Lithium Batteries

🚢 Ocean Freight: 

International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) 

Try our instant quotes for free

China
USA
100KG
Get Free Shipping Quotes
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Daisy Jiang

Proud Co-Founder and CEO of Bookairfreight. Shortly after starting to work in the world of logistics, I was astonished at how difficult and time consuming it was for businesses to get their hands on a simple air freight quote. I saw this as an opportunity to really make a difference in people’s lives, and felt like I had to do something. It was the spark that lit the fire of Bookairfreight’s creation.

Stay On Top
Of Your Logistics

Join our newsletter for practical tips
that will save you money and time.

🥳 Thank you! You're signed up!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

You May Also Like ❤️...

Shipping Disasters

Why Are Battery Products So Darn Hard to Ship?

Shipping battery products requires tremendous attention to detail. A successful shipment requires proper labeling and strict following of all necessary regulations.

Shipping 101

How to Pass CE Certification for Face Masks

If the CE Certification you have is not recognized by the EU, you won’t be able to get your product through customs!

Amazon

Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Shipping to Amazon FBA

Successful Amazon FBA shipments involve a lot of planning, following regulations and partnering with experienced freight forwarders.

Shipping 101

Packing Vs Packaging - The Difference Explained

Packing and packaging aren’t the same thing. Here is PackMojo’s take on the differences and how to turn them into your brand’s strengths.

Get An Instant Quote For Free

100KG
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Hey, there! Don't see anything you like? Contact us for more alternatives tailored just for you.'

Hello!
Not what you're looking for? Let us know and we'll send you multiple options to choose from.

We're sorry we couldn't find any matches for your search!
Contact us and we'd be happy to get you a manual quote
or
check our platform for more options.
View platform

Take Your Logistics to the Next Level.

Sign up today for free and get access to 20% cheaper freight rates from top forwarders all over the world.

Hundreds of fast-growing e-commerce businesses are working with Bookairfreight.