It’s about to get a lot harder to mail most tech gadgets overseas. Starting May 16, the USPS is banning the overseas shipping of all kinds of lithium-ion batteries. The reason for this is that lithium-ion batteries, when fully charged or improperly stored, can burst into flames, which isn’t good. The ban doesn’t sound too bad when you put it that way, but when you realize that tablets, smartphones, laptops, portable gaming devices, and MP3 players frequently use lithium-ion batteries, it starts to sound a little more intense.
According to Fast Company, the precautions aren’t completely unwarranted; lithium-ion batteries have been implicated in at least two fatal cargo plane crashes since 2006. That said, it’s only the USPS that is issuing the ban, so if you really need to send an iPad to France or something, you can still use FedEx, UPS, or DHL, but you’ll probably have to pay a little more.
If you want to send a gadget with a lithium-ion battery to a soldier posted overseas, however, things are about to become impossibly hard considering the USPS is the only service that is allowed to ship to Army Post Office and Fleet Post Office mailboxes. The only workaround in this case would be to find a civilian address near a base, and use that as the shipping destination. Of course, if you do that, the cost of the package is going to skyrocket, and getting the package from there to the solider could prove to be a pain as well.
Come January 2013, the USPS may reconsider and change the ban to allow the shipment of certain kinds of properly installed lithium-ion batteries overseas to APO and FPO locations, but for the rest of the year, the ban will stand as-is. So, if you need to mail a smartphone, an iPad, or a video camera overseas for some reason, it’s best to do it now before things get complicated or expensive.
If you’re curious, here’s a USPS provided list of gadgets that generally contain lithium-ion batteries:
- Video cameras
- Walkie talkies (two-way radio)
- GPS devices
- Radio-controlled toys
- Cell phones
- MP3 players
- Bluetooth headsets
- Laptop computers
- Electronic shavers
- Power drills
- Portable DVD players
- Electronic measuring equipment