APRIL 19, 2023 – With peak summer permanent change of station season just around the corner, there are a few things Soldiers and Families should consider when preparing for their upcoming moves. One hot item this year is lithium batteries.
Jason Todd, the director of Base Support Operations Transportation, 405th Army Field Support Brigade, said that effective May 15 the Department of Defense has placed some limitations on the movement of lithium batteries when included as part of a Soldier’s personal property shipment.
“With the advancement of modern electronics, people have incorporated lithium batteries into their everyday lifestyles more than ever before,” Todd said, “but not all lithium batteries can be shipped in their personal property shipments.”
Due to the fire hazards these lithium batteries present, limitations have been set, according to Todd. There are two common types of batteries – lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are found in cellphones, power tools, robot vacuums, digital cameras, lawn care equipment and e-bikes, for example, and these batteries are rechargeable and intended for multiple uses. Lithium metal batteries are found in watches, remote controls, handheld games, and smoke detectors. Typically, lithium metal batteries are non-rechargeable and come in a variety of sizes and styles.
Effective May 15, personal property items containing rechargeable lithium-ion batteries at 100 watt-hours or less (20 watt-hours or less per lithium-ion cell) and lithium metal batteries containing two grams or less of lithium content (one gram or less per lithium metal cell) are allowed to be shipped in your household goods and unaccompanied baggage shipments, Todd said. Anything higher are not.
Transportation service providers are required to properly package, label and certify, if required, lithium-ion batteries rated at 100 watt-hours or less (20 watt-hours or less per lithium-ion cell) and lithium metal batteries containing two grams or less of lithium content (one gram or less per lithium metal cell). Anything higher than this may not be shipped by the transportation service providers.
The new policy affects Soldiers and Families overseas, like here in Europe, more significantly than those in the U.S., Todd said. Soldiers and families moving within the U.S. can take the batteries with them when they drive to their new duty stations, instead of shipping them. But when moving to and from an overseas location they’ll need to figure out what to do well in advance with something like an e-bike or a robot vacuum.
To determine if the battery included in a device is lithium, manufactures will usually annotate lithium battery or a symbol of Li on the device. If the device is not clearly marked customers can refer to the owner’s manual for more information or conduct an internet search of the make and model containing the battery to get the battery’s size and specifications. Costumers should have a printed copy of the results available for the shippers at the time of pack out, especially if the specifications are not printed on the battery or device.
It’s important to note the stated limits are not based on the total aggregate watt-hours of all batteries in your shipment, but rather on the watt-hour rating of each individual battery. For example, if a customer has two lithium-ion batteries that are each 50 watt-hours, they may think they have met the allowed limit because the total aggregate watt-hours would be 100 watt-hours. But there could be three or four or more lithium-ion batteries that are each 75 watt-hours, and they would all be allowed because they are under the lithium-ion battery limit of 100 watt-hours, given the individual cell value of each battery does not exceed 20 watt-hours.
“The contracted moving companies are responsible for the packing of lithium batteries according to applicable regulations as well as preparing the certification documentation for the mode of shipping,” said Todd. “If a customer cannot identify if a battery is lithium or not, the mover will not be required to pack the battery due to the potential hazard it presents.”
“It is important to note that if you are unable to determine the battery or cell watt-hour size, they may not be accepted by the transportation service provider for movement within your shipment,” Todd said.
Todd suggests customers identify all items and devices that may contain lithium batteries prior to their pack-out dates, and when the moving companies arrive they discuss the size and limitations with the movers. If there are concerns about the battery meeting the new shipping policy requirements, its possible that some items may be shipped without the batteries.
Additionally, the new policy prohibits the storage of any type and size of lithium battery in long term non-temporary storage, however short term storage in-transit is allowed. If any shipment is rerouted to or converted to NTS, customers may need to provide disposition instructions to remove these items from their shipments. For those customers with items in NTS prior to May 15, it’s understood that lithium batteries may already be contained in these shipments. These items will not be removed from NTS, although after delivery the new policy will apply to these items, as well.
Although the Defense Personal Property Management Office recognizes this new policy may be an inconvenience to Soldiers and Families, DPPMO is committed to abiding by local and international laws regarding the movement of hazardous cargo. Customers are encouraged to talk to their local transportation offices on this matter and communicate with their moving companies regarding their upcoming PCS moves.
Soldiers and Families can find details on the movement of Lithium batteries and other PCS issues on the Military OneSource personal property movement page at www.militaryonesource.mil/moving-pcs/moving-personal-property or they can contact their local transportation office for assistance.
With its consolidated Personal Property Shipping Office and Official Travel Branch, BASOPS Trans is a field operating activity under the 405th AFSB providing back-office support functions for personal property shipping, official travel services and quality control disciplinary actions for Army communities in Europe.
The 405th AFSB is assigned to U.S. Army Sustainment Command and under the operational control of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The brigade is headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and provides materiel enterprise support to U.S. Forces throughout Europe and Africa – providing theater sustainment logistics; synchronizing acquisition, logistics and technology; and leveraging U.S. Army Materiel Command’s materiel enterprise to support joint forces. For more information on the 405th AFSB, visit the official website at www.afsbeurope.army.mil and the official Facebook site at www.facebook.com/405thAFSB.
Story by Cameron Porter
405th Army Field Support Brigade – Europe & Africa