Say goodbye (at least for now) to dropping by your local US post office and sending a smartphone or tablet to anyone overseas, including those with military post office boxes. If it has a lithium battery in it, you're going to have to a find another way of getting the box out as an international shipment.
The US Postal Service recently banned shipments of electronic products containing lithium batteries, citing risk of fire. Shipwire.com has a list of items that will be affected, with all the popular consumer electronic products mentioned: laptop computers, smartphones, tablets, cameras, MP3 players, Bluetooth headsets, GPS devices, portable DVD players, and even radio-controlled toys.
You can read more about the exact steps the USPS is taking by downloading this report, but the short version goes like this:
Effective May 16, 2012, the Postal Service will revise Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) section 601.10.20 to codify that primary lithium metal or lithium alloy (non-rechargeable) cells and batteries or secondary lithium-ion cells and batteries (rechargeable) are prohibited when mailed internationally or to and from an APO, FPO, or DPO location. However, this prohibition does not apply to lithium batteries authorized under DMM 601.10.20 when mailed within the United States or its territories.
International standards have recently been the subject of discussion by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU), and the Postal Service anticipates that on January 1, 2013, customers will be able to mail specific quantities of lithium batteries internationally (including to and from an APO, FPO, or DPO location) when the batteries are properly installed in the personal electronic devices they are intended to operate.
What's slightly odd about all this is that the USPS seems to be the only organization implementing the rule. Other major logistics companies and national postal offices, as far as I know, will still be shipping devices with lithium batteries.
Although the measure likely won't have a significant impact on volume shippers that typically route large quantities via other logistics companies, such as UPS or FedEx, or by air freight or boat cargo, it does drive home the fact that companies in the high-tech supply chain have to keep a constant eye on local shipping policies, or there could be havoc in the pipeline. It's also a good reminder of why many companies have various shipping warehouses scattered around the planet.
It looks as if end-consumers and those shipping repair units are likely to feel the brunt of the new USPS policy initially. Some small businesses might be hit, too, including online retailers that ship internationally. Will your business be hurt by this? How is your company dealing with the USPS lithium battery ban?