Dominic Tribe is a Director and Oskars Veberis is a Senior Consultant at Vendigital.  Here they provide guidance on how to ship lithium batteries.

Lithium batteries (LIB) are under the scope of Dangerous Goods Transport Regulations. As such there are many specific requirements that apply for shipping as well as packing and labelling. Up until recently (2016), the regulation varied from region to region, carrier to carrier and was generally more relaxed than they are today.

This guide has been created to provide initial practical guidance of the regulations as they at the time of publishing. The regulations included must be fulfilled by the shipper for any commercial shipment.

What is your selected mode of transport?

Generally, there are different sets of rules for Air Freight vs. Rail, Road and Sea Freight. Refer to our  shipping guidance for exact rules and guidance for all transport methods.

All lithium batteries can be transported on cargo-only aircraft compliantly, however, be mindful that airlines or transporters may have additional rules or variations in place which restrict lithium battery transportation.

Air freight restrictions – is your battery standalone?


Standalone lithium-ion batteries (i.e., batteries without their equipment) are classed as UN3480 under the United Nations (UN) agency classification. These types can ONLY be shipped by cargo aircraft.


Lithium batteries packed with or contained in equipment (UN3481) may also be shipped on a commercial aircraft (subject to further rules and regulations). On top of that, passengers are allowed to transport their battery powered devices and spare batteries in their carry-on luggage.

What is your battery energy capacity?

Batteries are separated into 2 groups: <100Wh and 100+Wh.


For batteries with capacity of <100Wh the limitations will be quantity and volume within the packages and consignments.


For batteries with capacity of 100Wh or above the limitations will be imposed on the maximum weight.

Refer to our  shipping guidance for exact rules.

What is your battery classification?

The vast majority of lithium-ion batteries are covered under 3 classification titles covered by 2 UN codes:

  1. Standalone Lithium Ion Batteries (without equipment) = UN 3480
  2. Lithium-ion batteries packed with equipment = UN 3481
  3. Lithium-ion batteries contained in equipment = UN 3481

How to correctly pack LIBs?

As Lithium batteries are inherently unstable the major risk associated with them is a short-circuit as a result of the terminals coming in contact with other batteries, metal objects or conductive surfaces, which is especially high-risk during transport. This can lead to a fire and thermal runaway.

Packaged batteries or cells must be separated in a way to prevent short circuits and damage to terminals. They must be packed in strong rigid outer packaging unless when contained in equipment, which provides protection. For batteries contained in equipment, the packing must provide protection against accidental operation during transportation.

Important note: 30% charge limit Applicable to Air Freight only:

All UN 3480 classed batteries must be offered for transport at a state of charge not exceeding 30% of rated capacity. This does not apply to UN 3481.

How long will shipping take?

Even though the transport time itself won't take longer than shipping any other items via the same route there are key areas you need to be aware of which will impact your lead time:


For someone experienced it will be matter of minutes, however, if forms are not completed correctly you run the risk of goods not being shipped at all.


It is not the same as packaging a book or a mug. For LIBs there are rules and regulations, people need to be trained and packaging appropriately marked. Typically can take 1-3 days depending on circumstances.


If the weight or package count limit is exceeded for Air Freight, Road/Rail or Sea Freight will need to be chosen as an alternative which could add weeks to lead time depending on locations.

Express shipping – all of the above means that batteries are not eligible for overnight or express shipping, as also governed by federal shipping restrictions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.