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Lithium Battery Cargo Shipment Damaged

I had an adventure today! Let me lay out the situation for you. It is 8am Thursday morning, Jonathan’s phone rings. The caller is in a somewhat excited state and is in a bit of a pickle. A shipment of dangerous goods shipping internationally by air in their warehouse been damaged by their forklift and he needs someone to come verify that the contents are still safe to ship. He also needs this done as soon as possible. My phone rings, and Jonathan explains what is going on and asks if I would like to get some experience in the field and I jump at the opportunity.

We arrived shortly after noon and met with the warehouse staff in their office and briefly looked at the documentation for the shipment. The shipment was made up of three pallets of laptop computers containing small lithium ion batteries. Only one of the pallets was damaged and they brought it to the front of the warehouse for us to examine and work with. We then went into the impressively large and clean warehouse and the staff made sure I understood I could not cross the thick yellow line (or I would be tackled).

The damage to the shipment was about 6 inches from the top of the pallet and consisted of two fairly substantial holes. One of these holes was also directly through the lithium battery label. We then opened up the package so we could check how much damage was done. Taking off the cardboard top and foam insert, we revealed 48 laptops stacked vertically, much like a box of bottles separated by thin cardboard inserts. Luckily the laptops were packed with the batteries towards the middle so the forklift did not even touch the batteries. Furthermore, the laptops themselves were barely scratched. This was a really good sign. We then reinforced the damaged areas of the package using similar cardboard patches on either side of the damaged area. Once the box was repaired we had to replace the labels and write a statement that the package was inspected and deemed fit for travel again. After we wrapped up the pallet it was taken back to the rest of the shipment inside the yellow line and we went to give our report to the warehouse manager and shipper.

Our report was basically a rundown of what we saw inside the package and how we repaired it to make it safe for shipping. However, one problem we noticed was that there were 48 laptops contained in the package. This was likely over the limit laid out in the regulations for lithium batteries packed within equipment (unless the batteries were incredibly light at less than 100 g each). The two people we gave our report to accepted the report, thanked us, and we were on our way. But this was not the end. Once we got back to the office the shipper called us back and asked us about the quantity of batteries and the regulations. By this time we had looked up the requirements and limitations and also the specifications of the particular batteries. The batteries were absolutely over the limitation (by a lot) and we let the shipper know. So now all of the laptops need to be repacked properly with up to 9 per package before it could fly or it would have to be returned to the original sender by ground. All-in-all it was an interesting trip as a result and I now have an idea of what repackaging entails and also how a relatively straight forward repacking with no damage can still result in important decisions for the shipper’s to make.

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