Shipping lithium ion batteries: when are you liable?


Shipping lithium ion batteries is a complicated process. When mistakes are made in this process, the consequences can be enormous. Your product could get damaged: for example, gases could escape from the battery, or it could catch fire and endanger the lives of people transporting the product. The risk of shipping lithium ion batteries begs the question: who is responsible when something goes wrong? In this blog, I explain what your responsibilities are when shipping LiB and how you can prevent accidents.

What is your responsibility in shipping lithium ion batteries?

When transporting goods, there is a general rule that applies to all cases: the sender of the products is always responsible. That means that as a manufacturer of lithium ion batteries you are responsible for using the right packaging, selecting the proper mode of transportation, having the correct documents and labelling and marking the package appropriately. But mostly, you are responsible for ensuring safe transport.

For each different type of dangerous good, the United Nations compiled shipping regulations. Lithium ion batteries are considered dangerous goods and are registered under the number UN3480. Under this number, the United Nations organised all the information you need to handle and transport lithium ion batteries safely. When shipping LiB, you are obliged to comply with all the UN’s regulations.

Are you responsible if something goes wrong?

Finding out who is responsible when, for example, a lithium ion battery catches fire during transport, is complicated. It all depends on who made the error in the transportation process. For the sake of clarity, I’ll use an example to explain things further;

As you could’ve read in one of our previous blogs, a printer ink production company decided to transport their ink by airplane. During the flight, several bottles broke because they could not withstand the amount of air pressure in the cabin. The bottles started leaking, and the whole airplane had to be dismantled, investigated and sanitised. The costs were enormous.

In this particular case, there are three parties involved which could all bear responsibility for this accident. In principle, the sender of the package is responsible when something goes wrong during transport. They’ve neglected to follow the strict instructions of the UN and had to face corresponding consequences; legal action.

As a sender of lithium ion batteries you should, therefore, make sure you use the right packaging for your product. Working together with an experienced packaging partner who is an expert in this field is therefore very important and could help you choose the right type of packaging.

In this case of the printer ink company: if their packaging partner assured them that the packaging was suitable for transportation of bottles of ink by plane, and if it was not, they are responsible for the damage done. The same goes for the transportation company: if they proclaim to be competent dangerous goods transporters, but in fact are not, they are responsible for the accident.

Remember that you always have an obligation to verify the correctness of the respective suppliers statements. Ask for copies of certificates and documents.


Working together with a professional packaging partner helps you to prevent accidents during transportation. A good packaging partner knows about the regulations and understands how to protect your product and mitigate risks.

An important method of creating the right packaging for dangerous goods is learning through experience. Packaging material for lithium ion batteries should be tested on a regular basis if you want to guarantee safety. At Nefab, we perform required tests on a regular basis. Another essential part of packing lithium ion batteries is choosing the right material.

When using the right material, you as a sender take responsibility and protect the environment against the possible dangers of damaged lithium ion batteries.

Do you enable safe shipping?

It is clear that safety is the most important aspect of shipping lithium ion batteries. As a sender of LiBs, you are responsible for a safe transportation process and liable for damages and accidents. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that your packaging is suitable for the shipment of LiBs.

Are you experiencing difficulties in creating the right packaging for your product? And would you like to see how other LiB manufacturers solve this problem? Then this customer case might be of interest to you. In the case, we explain how we helped one of our customers with the shipment and return of lithium ion batteries on a global level. For this particular customer, the priority was to enable safe transportation of their product.

Want to learn from their experience? Take a look at their case and learn how we helped them reduce logistic costs with a compliant lithium ion battery packaging solution. Download the free case here:

Download the Lithium-ion Battery customer case

Find out how we reduced our customer's cost of logistics and environmental impact with an optimized and certified Lithium-ion Battery packaging solution