Due to the risk of fire, lithium-ion batteries cannot be shipped as cargo on passenger planes.
That’s according to a new ban enacted by the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization, which takes effect in April.
The batteries, used in cellphones, laptops and other mobile devices, have been blamed for several aircraft fires.
These batteries have been banned by most U.S. airlines as cargo on passenger flights, but millions of passengers still fly in and out of the U.S. every year aboard foreign airlines carrying them as cargo.
The ban, announced Monday, applies to bulk shipments in cargo holds and doesn’t include the batteries inside gadgets that passengers travel with.
Although the U.N. agency is calling its directive a ban, it doesn’t have any authority to enforce it. Instead, that will be up to aviation regulators in each country.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has warned airlines that fires from lithium batteries have the potential to take down airliners because they are so difficult for on-board fire extinguishers to put out.
The Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA, said Monday it agrees that the ban is “a necessary action to protect passengers, crews, and aircraft from the current risk to aviation safety.”
The ban will act as a stop gap until the organization writes new packaging rules for shipping lithium batteries, which are expected in 2018. “Our goal is to find a solution which will permit the lithium-ion industry and its customers to continue to benefit from rapid and reliable global air transport,” the ICAO statement said.
Lithium-ion batteries can still be shipped on cargo aircraft. At least two deadly cargo jet crashes have been blamed on fires caused by these batteries. A Boeing 747 crashed in Dubai killing two crew members in 2010. In 2011, an Asiana Airlines 747 crashed off South Korea, also killing two crew members.