United Nations’ agency International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has called for tougher and fire-resistant packaging for lithium batteries that are shipped as cargo on commercial aircraft.

An ICAO-led panel has agreed to form a group of experts to develop safer packaging for the transport of lithium ion batteries that are used in cellphones and laptops.

"The panel will consider proposals to improve packaging standards at meeting that will be held at ICAO in October."

Pilots earlier voiced concern over the somewhat lax approach in the existing standards with aircraft manufacturers also joining in citing the design of the existing jetliners that cannot tackle high-temperatures or explosive gases, which could also come from fires involving lithium-ion power cells.

The transportation of lithium ion batteries as cargo on both passenger and freight aircraft is still allowed. However, bulk transportation of these batteries is being restricted in the recent past due to possible fire risks.

Over the past few months, few large international airlines have voluntarily restricted or completely stopped accepting bulk shipment of rechargeable lithium ion batteries that are used to power laptops, mobile phones and other consumer electronic devices.

The panel will consider proposals to improve packaging standards at meeting that will be held at ICAO in October.

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If approved, the new packaging standards will be included in the 2017-2018 edition of the ICAO’s technical instructions for dangerous goods transport and will be applicable for lithium metal batteries used in watches, phones, laptops and other devices.