From electric vehicles to laptops to massive grid storage systems, the demand for batteries is growing. And so is the need to ship batteries safely and efficiently.

But hold up! You can’t just toss lithium batteries in a box and call it a day. Transporting batteries is a serious business. Do it wrong, and you could be looking at fires, explosions, injuries, fines — bad news all around!

With the right expertise, you can ship batteries securely. In this short blog, we’ll walk through proper battery shipping: everything from understanding regulations to packaging and labelling.

Why batteries need special shipping arrangements

Batteries require special handling and arrangements when being shipped. If not handled properly, it may lead to:

  • Fires or explosions from thermal runaway, typically if batteries are damaged or short circuit.
  • Injuries to handlers or emergency responders from battery fires and explosions.
  • Cargo damage from battery fires may spread in a plane or ship hold.
  • Emergency landings or diversions if a shipment catches fire mid-transport.
Class 9 label

On top of that, you could also end up paying regulatory fines or losing shipping privileges if battery shipping regulations are violated.

Due to such risks, lithium batteries are classified as Class 9 dangerous goods, while other types of batteries can fall into other classes of dangerous goods. This means they are subject to regulations on packaging, labelling, quantity limits, training, and reporting.

Which transport modes can be used to ship batteries?

Batteries can be shipped on all main modes of transportation used in logistics: air, ocean, road, and rail.

However, there are some different regulations and requirements depending on the mode of transport. Below we cover general guidelines applicable to all transport modes, but check the following dangerous goods regulations for specific info:

Preparing batteries for shipping

Packaging plays a huge role in keeping your batteries safe during transport. To prepare your batteries for shipment, first read the manufacturer’s recommendations for safe shipping.

Packaging guidelines

You must ensure optimal quality of packaging when preparing for shipping. We’ve listed some must-dos on how to ship batteries:

  • Batteries need to be packed in inner packaging that completely surrounds them, like a fiberboard box. This prevents short circuits.
  • Inner packaging must be packed in strong, rigid outer packaging like wood, fiberboard, or metal boxes. This provides impact and crush protection.
  • Lithium batteries require both inner and outer packaging, along with sufficient cushioning material.
  • Packages must be sealed securely and be able to contain leaks in the event of electrolyte spills. Any packaging damages, like punctures or tears, make it unsuitable for shipment.
  • Batteries must be secured upright to avoid short circuits. Shipments also require segregation from unnecessary heat sources.

Labelling Guidelines

Apart from the specifications issued by governing authorities and the carrier, you must follow general labelling guidelines for all battery packages.

  • The outer box must have the UN number, proper shipping name (e.g. UN 3480, Lithium-ion batteries), and hazard labels.
  • Use laminated labels to prevent damage from condensation.
  • Avoid placing battery shipping labels on removable packaging.

Note: Packaging and labelling guidelines vary depending on how the batteries are shipped, i.e., with equipment, inside equipment, standalone, or others.

Documentation and regulations for battery shipping

Several documents are required for shipping batteries internationally. These include:

  • Dangerous Goods Declaration (DGD): This document details the shipment, including the UN number, shipping name, hazard class, packaging group, and quantity. Required for all battery types.
  • Emergency Response Information: This guides carriers on handling the batteries in case of damage, leak, fire, etc. Required for all battery types.
  • Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS): Contains comprehensive product information, hazards, and handling guidelines on how to ship batteries. Required for all battery types.
  • Transport Document: For lithium battery shipments, this specifies the UN number, shipping name, hazard class, packing group, and total quantity.
  • Pilot Notification: For shipping lithium batteries by air, pilots must receive written information on the presence and location of lithium batteries.
  • Packaging Certifications: Documentation verifying that packaging meets regulatory performance standards.
  • Battery Test Summary: For defective or damaged lithium batteries, it is required to show that they have been tested and meet transport requirements.
  • Exemption Approvals: If an exemption to dangerous goods regulations has been granted, the associated approval documentation is mandatory.

Safety best practices for shipping batteries

It’s necessary to adhere to several key safety practices for safely shipping batteries.

  • When preparing batteries for shipping, examine the Watt-hours rating, which indicates the battery energy capacity. Higher Watt-hour batteries require greater precautions.
  • Check the State of Charge (SOC), which is the percentage of available power. IATA regulations say that for air transport, the SOC should never exceed 30%. This reduces the chances of thermal runaway.
  • Train employees on proper battery handling. Enforce no-smoking policies on battery shipments.
  • Ensure you have an emergency response plan for potential incidents like leaks or fires. This should include battery-specific response guidelines and appropriate fire suppressants.

Summing Up

For safe, compliant transport of batteries, you must have a 360-degree overview of critical requirements and regulations affecting dangerous goods in your region.

It’s best to work with a partner specialising in transporting dangerous/hazardous goods. External support and expertise will ensure you’re not caught up in the complexities of battery logistics.

Maersk offers solid infrastructure and network support at every step of battery shipping. To ship batteries stress-free with Maersk via air or ocean, tick the box This cargo is considered dangerous during the online booking process.

Explore Maersk Air Freight services for more information about shipping dangerous goods by air.

Discover everything you need to know about Maersk ocean shipping for dangerous cargo.